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NYS Lawmakers Roll Out Measure To Tax, Legalize Marijuana

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- A New York State lawmaker outlined her proposal Thursday to raise revenue by making marijuana legal.

State Sen. Liz Krueger's measure -- the Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act -- would legalize, regulate and tax marijuana under state law.

"It will take the market in marijuana away from the criminal enterprises, just as happened when alcohol prohibition was ended," she said at a City Hall press conference.

NYS Lawmakers Roll Out Measure To Tax, Legalize Marijuana

Krueger, a Democrat from Manhattan, said her bill would bring in hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue for the state. New York State Assembly Health Committee Chairman Richard Gottfried (D-Manhattan) signed onto the measure.

"It would establish an excise tax of $50 an ounce of marijuana and authorize localities to charge a sales tax on retail sales if they wish to," Krueger said.

NYS Lawmakers Roll Out Measure To Tax, Legalize Marijuana

Towns and cities could also opt out of marijuana sales.

"I last smoked marijuana when I was a sophomore in college. It was 1976. It was a Cheech and Chong movie. I don't intend to smoke it ever again," the lawmaker noted.

The bill would allow the purchase of 2 ounces of pot by people 21 and older. It makes the minimum age for marijuana possession and consumption 18.

Krueger said recent surveys show that right now, it is easier for a high school student to buy marijuana than to purchase beer or cigarettes.

New Yorkers hearing about the proposal for the first time had a mixed reaction, CBS 2's Lou Young reported.

"Look at all the problems we have with people driving while impaired. No, don't legalize it," said Maggine Mills of Rockland County's Nanuet.

"You know, you might as well say 'yes,' because they're doing it anyway and don't pay taxes on it," added Frank Tornese of West Nyack.

City Comptroller John Liu, who has studied the issue, said the economic impact from a pot tax is substantial.

"We have close to a million people who use it on a regular basis. It's a market of $1.65 billion here in New York City every year, so it makes sense, seeing as so many people are using it on a regular basis, to decriminalize it," Liu said.

Liu estimates that a pot tax would generate $431 million in New York City alone.

"There's unfair enforcement, particularly against minorities and minority youth, and also people are using it. The medical experts say it is not as dangerous as alcohol. Marijuana does not get people into a violent state whereas, unfortunately, alcohol does," Liu said.

Albany watchers say the bill faces long odds for quick passage, but proponents say just introducing it with so many backers is an important first step, Young reported/

Colorado and Washington state have already enacted similar legislation.

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