How To Eliminate the Black Market

As more and more states move to legalize marijuana, all eyes are on the results. Will the sky fall? Will things get better? One argument from the pro-legalization side is that ending prohibition will eliminate the black market for marijuana. If people can buy it in stores, why would they go to a dealer? Anti-legalization advocates point to black market busts happening in states with legalized marijuana and say, "this hasn't changed anything." So what is the answer?

Legalization comes on a spectrum. If tough regulatory laws and heavy taxes burden the cannabis economy - the black market will continue. People will be drawn to the quality assured, risk-free benefits of buying legalized cannabis, but may be dissuaded if the price is twice that of the street rate. Harvard economist Jeffrey Miron takes a market-based look at legalization and the black market in this Denver Post article.

NY Grows Sponsors Legislative Panel at the Javits Center

New York politicians and policy experts will meet to discuss marijuana legalization at CWCB Expo in Manhattan on Friday, June 16th. The Cannabis World Congress and Business Exposition drew nearly 4,000 attendees last year at the Javits Center, and is the leading forum for the booming cannabis business.

Use promotional code "NYGROWS30" for a 30% discount on the Full Conference or 2-day Expo passes.

A featured panel at the event will discuss the path to legalizing marijuana for adult use in the State of New York. Both the NYS Senate and NYS Assembly have bills to legalize cannabis. This panel will delve into the details of Senate Bill S3040 and Assembly Bill A03506, the possibility of their passing, and how it would affect the industry if they do pass. This panel will also discuss the revenue opportunities that would come from legalized adult use and how that revenue could be used. The panel is sponsored and organized by NY Grows – a statewide organization dedicated to ending marijuana prohibition in favor of a taxed and regulated policy approach.

The New York State Legislative Panel on Adult Use will include:

Senator Liz Krueger – (D) 28th District

Assembly Member Crystal Peoples-Stokes – (D) 141st District

Prof. Edward Shepard – Economics Dept., Le Moyne College

Ashley Kilroy – Served as Executive Director of Marijuana Policy in Denver, CO.

Kate M. Bell – Legislative Counsel for the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP)

Moderator: Joel Giambra – Former Erie County Executive, NY Grows Founder

Understanding the "Reverse Gateway" effect

Evidence is rapidly emerging that legal access to marijuana can help reduce opiate addiction and overdoses. According to a study by the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, opiate overdoses are down by 25% in states where marijuana is legally available. Another study in the Humbolt Journal of Social Relations came to similar conclusions after discovering that "marijuana can be an effective “reverse gateway drug — one whose usage can help wean addicts to opiates or prescription medication from those far more dangerous substances."

As the Trump administration moves to enforce the federal prohibition of marijuana, it is clear that doing so would only increase the damage of our nation's opiate problem. This is an important moment in the balance between state and federal rights, and we must do everything we can to support those states whose drug policies stand on the side of science and harm reduction.

Meet the Congressional Cannabis Caucus

As marijuana legalization sweeps the nation, pressure has increased on the federal government to update its stance on the issue. Marijuana prohibition has existed federally for over 80 years and so change is slow and difficult. To aid this process, a new caucus has been formed with representatives from legal-marijuana states among its members. Some of the main goals of the caucus include:

  • Passing legislation enabling cannabis research
  • Ensuring veterans have access to medical marijuana
  • Ironing out practical business needs, including tax code 280E (which prohibits business expense deductions) and the prohibition on cannabis businesses from working with banks, which forces them to deal all in cash.

In a refreshing change of pace from the intense partisanship that has dominated U.S. politics with increasing intensity, the new Cannabis Caucus is a bipartisan movement with members from both sides of the aisle. Read more about it here.

Cuomo Opposes Marijuana Legalization in New York

An exchange between Governor Andrew Cuomo and Politico's Jimmy Vielkind today confirmed that the Governor opposes the legalization of marijuana. Cuomo said that it is a "gateway drug" that he believes leads users to use more dangerous substances. Interestingly, this theory has been debunked by a variety of sources including the DEA itself, which admitted in 2016 report that, "Little evidence supports the hypothesis that initiation of marijuana use leads to an abuse disorder with other illicit substances.” For a more detailed analysis of the Gateway Theory, click here.

When Vielkind asked why the Governor had been a "stick in the mud" about marijuana legalization, Cuomo became agitated and even suggested that the reporter might be intoxicated - saying: "I support medical marijuana, I don’t support recreational marijuana — apparently you do, which explains some of the stories you’ve been writing. Recreational marijuana I think should be separated from the workplace, do we agree on that?”

For a Governor who claims to be a progressive leader, his stance on marijuana legalization is remarkably regressive. Click here to read the full account of the interview.

Giambra Makes the Case for Marijuana Legalization

Former two term Erie County Executive and Buffalo Comptroller Joel Giambra is a strong advocate for marijuana legalization in New York. In an interview with Time Warner Cable News, he outlined the impacts of such a policy change for New York State. "The infrastructure in New York State is woefully inadequate and falling apart," Giambra said, "And here's a way to go about trying to pay for it." He went on to explain that public works projects to rebuild the State's infrastructure have been a part of Governor Cuomo's platform, but that there should be more discussion about how to pay for it. By legalizing marijuana, he explains, "We can bring the revenue out of the underground economy, creating a new industry that will create up to 100,000 new jobs for our State."

Giambra explains that the eight states that have legalized marijuana so far have seen positive results, and that we should learn from their example. Watch the full interview here.

NY Grows Launches in Buffalo, NY

Late Tuesday morning, former Erie County Executive Joel Giambra announced the launch of NY Grows to the media along with several colleagues from the organization. “Prohibition is not an effective policy,” says Giambra. He went on to explain that New York State stands to gain $600 million dollars in tax revenue, save $1.2 billion in law enforcement and criminal justice costs, and create as many as 100,000 jobs following marijuana legalization.

Maximilian Eyle, who handles their social media and online promotions, said, “Even five years ago it was hard to imagine eight states would legalize recreational marijuana, almost 30 for medical. Things are happening quickly, and I think we can clearly see where the tide is moving."

Click here for WIVB's story and video of the press conference.

Click here for the article from the Buffalo News about the NY Grows launch.

Marijuana Legalization is a Bipartisan Issue

In an age of intense partisan division, it's rare to find an issue where both sides can agree. The debate over marijuana legalization is one such issue where supporters can be found on both sides of the aisle. Commonly thought of as a "progressive" issue and associated with the Left, many on the Right also view it as a poor economic and social policy that interferes with a state's ability to self-govern.

Support for full legalization is around 60% nationally,  and as high as 42% among Republicans. For Republican Millennials, the rate shoots up to 63% as reported by a Pew Foundation study in 2015. Even the Religious Right is starting to recognize the failures of marijuana prohibition. David Simpson, a former Republican representative in the Texas legislature, wrote, "I don’t believe that when God made marijuana he made a mistake that government needs to fix." Read more here.

New York is Missing Out on Canna-Tourism

Now that eight states have legalized marijuana for recreational use, including the entire West Coast, a new industry has been born: canna-tourism. More and more businesses are catering to this newly legitimized vacation theme, and cashing in. Bud and Breakfast CEO Sean Roby says, “Cannabis tourism is just exploding all over. Everything is so new and fresh and unfolding in this country right now… People are enthusiastic, and even those who aren’t even really into [cannabis] can make their yearly income renting out their places if they have an edge.”

If New York State legalizes marijuana, money will be generated not only from in-state consumers, but by visitors across the nation and abroad who are looking for an even more relaxing vacation than they can find at home. Read more about this new industry here.

Marijuana Prohibition Costs States Billions Each Year

The economic costs of marijuana prohibition are staggering. There are two main ways that this policy costs us money: through criminal justice costs and through the failure to raise tax revenue from marijuana sales. Drug task forces, drug courts, and prisons are kept busy with marijuana dealers and users - an expensive system that has clearly failed to make marijuana disappear. Since many states across America have legalized recreational marijuana, we see the vast amount of tax revenue that can be generated from its legal sale.

In his article for the Washington Post, Christopher Ingraham discusses the billions of dollars that could be earned through tax revenue alone if we were to legalize marijuana. This money can be then used to reinvest in infrastructure, education, and other important public institutions. Read about it here.

Cuomo's Decriminalization Announcement

Buried in his plan for the upcoming legislative session, Governor Cuomo stated that he supports the decriminalization of personal possession of marijuana. Since personal possession of under 25 grams has been decriminalized in New York State since 1977, this is a strange declaration. He also states that he still supports going after dealers and growers, and has not yet expressed support of legalizing recreational marijuana. What does this mean for our state? Read an analysis here.

Portugal's Decriminalization Example

When Portugal transitioned abandoned their old punitive approach to drug policy in 2001 and decriminalized the possession of all drugs, many people were worried. But it quickly became clear that the impact was positive. Drug related diseases like HIV went down, overdoses went down, and the number of overall users did not go up. When they stopped treating drug use as a crime, the country was better equipped to handle its consequences. Read about it here.

We can learn a similar lesson in terms of our marijuana policy. By ending the destructive policy of marijuana prohibition, we can lower our prison population, make tax profits off of its sale, and regulate the consumption of the drug.

The Wasted Resources of Marijuana Prohibition

The amount of manpower, dollars, and other resources spent on enforcing marijuana prohibition is staggering. The ACLU reports that "Between 2001 and 2010, there were over 8 million pot arrests in the U.S. That’s one bust every 37 seconds and hundreds of thousands ensnared in the criminal justice system." New York is no exception, spending around $1 billion dollars per year on criminal justice costs such as policing and prisons.

These numbers might not be so staggering if they served their purpose, but they have done nothing to curb marijuana use or availability. According to Time Magazine, marijuana use has doubled over the past decade. It's time we stopped pretending we can get rid of it, and time we legalized, taxed, and regulated it like any other substance.

Traffic Fatality Rates in Washington Remain The Same After Marijuana Legalization

Since Washington State legalized recreational marijuana in 2012, road safety does not seem to have been affected by the change in drug laws. The state's own data shows that traffic fatalities have not increased since marijuana legalization too effect, (you can read an analysis of that here).

One source of confusion on the issue of road safety and marijuana use is that fact that marijuana remains in the body for much longer than the intoxication lasts. In other words, while alcohol impairment can be effectively measured by the driver's blood alcohol content - traces of marijuana will remain in the blood for days or weeks after use. Someone who uses marijuana at home on Friday night will likely test positive when they drive to work on Monday even though the psychoactive effects have long worn off. For a more complete analysis of the relationship between marijuana and driving safety, click here.

How Marijuana Legalization Can Reduce Gun Violence

When two beer distributors have a dispute, they settle it in court. When two marijuana dealers have a dispute, they are much more likely to use guns to solve their problem. That is because prohibition has removed any other legal recourse. Anyone participating in the business is inherently a criminal, and while their crimes might be initially non-violent - they often escalate.

Calculating the precise number of deaths associated with marijuana prohibition can be difficult, but evidence shows that drug related homicides account for as much as 25% of gun deaths in America each year. Click here to learn more. 

Evidence Shows Legalization Does Not Increase Youth Marijuana Use

When Colorado legalized recreational marijuana in 2012, many feared that this would increase adolescent use of the drug. Several years later, the evidence shows that this was not the case. The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment reports that teen use has not risen since legalization occurred, read about it here. This is unsurprising because regulation is much more effective at keeping a drug out of children's hands than prohibition. A black market marijuana dealer does not care about the age of the customer. He does not check IDs. When the market is regulated and taxed, it becomes like alcohol and vendors have a responsibility to screen their clientele.

If we are serious about protecting our youth, we have little choice but to legalize and regulate marijuana in New York State. It ensures that the product is grown under safe and controlled conditions, and that there are enforceable standards for sales and consumption.

Microsoft Enters The Marijuana Market

The amount of money to be made in the burgeoning marijuana industry is no secret. Both the public and private sectors are already starting to reap the benefits of a taxed and regulated system. Now even Microsoft has seen the great financial possibilities that accompany marijuana legalization and have launched software services for marijuana growers and sellers. Read about it here.

The speed at which tech giants like Microsoft and other companies are entering the marijuana business is a testament to the viability of this industry. If we as a state are serious about providing jobs, raising tax revenue, and investing in the New York economy, we must support marijuana legalization.

Why New York's Medical Marijuana Policy Is Not Enough

In 2014, New York became the 23rd state in the U.S. to legalize medical marijuana. While this marked a step in the right direction, it quickly became clear that it would not solve the many problems associated with marijuana prohibition. Recreational use remains unaffected and fuels the black market while filling our prisons.

Even as medical marijuana policies go, New York's is one of the most restrictive. Only a small amount of facilities are sanctioned to sell medical marijuana to patients who meet the criteria. Prices remain very high, and many patients are forced to drive hours to the nearest dispensary. Furthermore, there are many restrictions as to the specific strains that can be sold thus depriving certain patients of the type that would best suit them. New York's Lockport Union-Sun & Journal, one of the nation's oldest newspapers, printed an impassioned editorial on this subject, which you can read here.

New York is Poised to be Next in Marijuana Legalization

                Did you know that there is already a bill in the New York State Legislature to legalize and regulate marijuana for recreational use? Introduced by Sen. Liz Krueger from Manhattan, this bill would allow New York to join the other states that have made the sensible decision to end marijuana prohibition and reap the benefits of a well-regulated system. New York was the 23rd state to legalize medical marijuana and many feel it is time for it to take the next step.

                A majority of New York State residents support the measure, but many lawmakers in our Senate and Assembly are squeamish and afraid to take a stance on the issue after so many years of prohibition. That is why NY Grows is launching its campaign to help guide our state toward a modern and progressive marijuana policy. Click here to learn more about why New York will be the next state to legalize.

The NY Grows Web Launch

We are excited to announce the web launch of NY Grows – a statewide educational resource focused on innovative solutions to cannabis policy in New York. Please explore our many resources to stay up to date on the issue, learn how to get involved, and spread the message. So far, eight states across America have legalized recreational marijuana and 29 have started medical marijuana programs. We are ready to help make New York the next state to do the right thing and end marijuana prohibition.

Every other state that has legalized marijuana for recreational use has done so through a public referendum where state citizens vote on the issue. However, New York is one of many states that has no referendum system, and instead relies on our state senators and assembly to vote on these laws. Therefore, it is extremely important to start conversations in your community and notify your representatives about the importance of this issue. Our state has a powerful reputation as an innovator and a leader, let’s remember that as we mobilize and change our laws.