June 4th, 2012
09:44 PM ET

New York is one step closer towards legalizing marijuana?

17 states & Washington D.C. allow use of medical marijuana. New York governor Andrew Cuomo wants to decriminalize marijuana.
He would lower the penalty for those caught with a small amount of marijuana, 25 grams to a violation instead of a misdemeanor.
Cuomo has the backing of New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg. His city spent 75 million dollars on arresting and jailing people carrying small amounts of weed in 2010.

So what if other states decriminalized marijuana?
The U.S. could save 8.7 billion dollars in enforcement expenditures and generate another 8.7 billion dollars if we were to tax it.
That's a lot of green: 17.4 billion dollars.

Filed under: Economy • Law • News
soundoff (50 Responses)
  1. JohnnyInSNJ

    When the rest of the 'Old Guard' die out, it will be legalized. The oldies are still clinging to marijuana clichés like the movie "Reefer Madness".

    June 8, 2012 at 7:44 am | Reply
  2. AP

    Decriminalizing is not even close to legalizing...you still get in trouble if you are caught with weed. Why not do the smart thing and legalize it and have state run stores sell it, tax it, and use that money towards education and drug prevention.... that would make too much sense though

    June 6, 2012 at 4:01 pm | Reply
  3. Rock

    Legalize it and tax it. This country needs alternative tax revenue and jobs!

    June 6, 2012 at 10:27 am | Reply
  4. John

    What's new? People use weed for personal reasons and largely because it is common knowledge that alcohol and prescription drugs are lethal. Do you know anybody who died from a marijuana overdose? Now you know why politicians and law makers have a conondrum in legalizing it. Because they are just plain stupid. Their concept of weed is in line with the 1920's era.

    June 6, 2012 at 10:07 am | Reply
    • Jen

      Ain't that the truth! Every day the tv ads push pharmaceuticals up the wazoo- and the real shocker is at the end...."certain individuals with elevated blood pressure shouldnot use, blah-blah....may result in heart attack, stroke or death" Don't you love it! I have yet to see a "head" die of pot smoking! It is used for the treatment of Glaucoma, and pain management. I don't see anyone handing a person a cigarette, alcohol, or certain pharmaceuticals that wouldn't take their toll, so to speak! I agree with you.

      June 12, 2012 at 10:25 pm | Reply
  5. splasher6

    If New Yorkers can't handle sodas over 16 ounces how the hel they going ot handle weed?

    June 6, 2012 at 9:17 am | Reply
    • Jen

      That is where personal responsibility comes in.....lots of folks give thought when drinking,- not to do it to excess, etc., it is a personal responsibility thing.....

      June 12, 2012 at 10:27 pm | Reply
  6. U.S Vet

    Tax it

    June 6, 2012 at 9:13 am | Reply
  7. Mike

    I think I'm in love with Erin Burnett. I would love to blaze one with her. Great story! I live in NY, so we couldn't be happier. One step closer.

    June 6, 2012 at 8:42 am | Reply
  8. Fred Flinstone

    All I know Erin is I want to smoke a dubby with you 😉

    June 6, 2012 at 8:36 am | Reply
  9. Charles Gannon

    And yet, you can't have anything larger than a 16oz soda.

    June 6, 2012 at 7:32 am | Reply
  10. Max Brooks from Florida

    There is absolutely NO reason for marijuana to be illegal when far more harmful drugs like alcohol are legal.

    June 6, 2012 at 7:26 am | Reply
    • Jen

      Amen....how clear is that!!!!

      June 12, 2012 at 10:28 pm | Reply
  11. Ted Striker

    Awkward glasses are awkward

    June 6, 2012 at 2:00 am | Reply
  12. Ramana7

    Only in a sane world, Erin.

    Many people have their weed soap box. I have mine. I don't want to wear on with it and bore anyone. The general point I want to make is that it's a relatively harmless and benign weed. At absolute worse, it's as bad for you as cigarettes (although I'd strongly refute that claim in point of fact). But let's say that's the worst case. You have an opportunity to not only stop arresting people for it and clear up some beds for some other criminals, but you can leave use those police man hours to do more important work.

    You make some basic laws and tax programs. Tax growers of different sizes at different rates or tax them all the same, that kind of thing. This where the discussion needs to take place. What is fair and realistic. And I would hope that it's worded such that it's open for anyone to grow, sell, buy, create products for the use of, etc. It shouldn't favor just one industry or one group. It should be open for all.

    You set up your taxes. Let's pretend we give 7% to the state and 7% to federal. Feds can opt to keep their 7% or invest some back into the state. A certain percentage of the tax proceeds should be used to fund Marijana research.

    Then you have the licensing at the city/country level. Permit. Whatever. So if you choose to grow....Here's the rules, here's the fees, yada yada.

    It's going to general significant opportunity and leaving it open for all would be out of respect for the American dream, anyone can make it.

    Bam, Billions in revenue for each state and billions more for the Government. We could even set it up that the tax revenue for marijuana goes to specific causes. Another discussion should be had about what that is, but for example, it could help fund health care. It could be used to save social security or whatever makes the most sense. Good causes in view of the financial crisis.

    And then it's the green gold rush. That's good for the economy and it just makes good sense.

    June 6, 2012 at 12:56 am | Reply
  13. Beechwwod1

    well, i wonder if Obama is gonna wait for Biden to say, "Its the right thingto do", cause he won't..Old Joeseph.Biden sees it as evil and dangerous and probably passed lots of laws about it and gave out milliions to combat it... Obama had Gay friends, now I wonder if he has any friends that partake maryJane...

    June 6, 2012 at 12:32 am | Reply
  14. Jim OKeefe

    Erin, The Wisconsin state motto is "Forward." It is written on the state flag – easy to see. Your guests who think Gov. Scott Walker borrowed the Forward motto from President Obama have it exactly backwards. Not surprising, just frustrating. I would suggest that the president, being from neighbor Illinois, saw the Wisconsin state flag and liked what it said. I like your show.

    June 6, 2012 at 12:05 am | Reply
  15. Skunkyfingers

    You forget to mention the Millions of jobs that will be created by a Marijuana market and the additional Billions of Dollars made in Taxes from those tax paying jobs and the Hemp and Fiber and Textiles markets opens Millions of more jobs yet again creating Billions more in Tax Dollars and it just keeps growing. Make that about 35 Billion Dollars a year once these hemp farm markets start up --and they will take off like rockets if it becomes legal to do so. Hemp everything!!!! From building materials to the cloths on your back to the oils that you use to cook with to different medicines to get well with to bio fuels to protein to sustain life in various forms and list goes on and on and on. Marijuana and Hemp have a million uses and will be the next big Industrial revolution in America.

    June 5, 2012 at 11:32 pm | Reply
  16. Spencer Shaw

    I dont see what the purpose of it. Why do we NEED to have people high? Yes we can tax it, but do we want to be known as the country that needs money so bad that we need drugs to dig us out of the hole? I think that is a disgrace. Oh Marijuana isnt as bad as drugs? Fantastic. Its still not good as by all heath experts. For Medical im fine for legalizing, it has a purpose. But people using it because they want to be high....no. Just no.

    June 5, 2012 at 11:00 pm | Reply
  17. anonyi

    Yeah lets legalize it and watch crime rates just roar out of control. This stuff causes brain cancer, premature death, kills brain cells and causes more crimes and murders than ever before. We DO NOT need this stuff, weed has no purpose on Earth whatsoever. i'm sorry but Truth hurts..

    June 5, 2012 at 10:24 pm | Reply
    • TrickyDick

      Then why did God put it here?

      June 7, 2012 at 12:38 am | Reply
    • John

      You are an idiot. Where on earth are these facts coming from... there not, you made that up. There is no way weed should be illegal. Sure its not good for you but neither are alch. or processed foods the list goes on. As for the crime rate, only if having the munchies is illegal.

      June 7, 2012 at 5:45 pm | Reply
  18. Eric

    Your northern neighbor Quebec can't wait for legalization. Canada and U.S. need to it at the same time.
    Time for New-York and Quebec to give the example again! Vive le canabis libre!

    June 5, 2012 at 10:12 pm | Reply
  19. about time

    About time we stop wasting time, money and reputations on something less damaging than our legal drug alcohol. Not only will it save and make the money mentioned in article but it will save other hidden cost, the idiot who gets drunk and beats spouse might smoke pot instead and get mellow and have some popcorn and a movie with spouse instead.

    June 5, 2012 at 8:47 pm | Reply
  20. James

    I am a college graduate. I am not a criminal. I pay my taxes. But I cant come home an relax and smoke some Marijuana. However I CAN go to the gas station and get some "bath salts" and "synthetic marijuana" This is a joke right?
    Alcohol seems to be big business. Its being pushed on people like its healthy to drink and it is the secret to happiness.
    This country needs an ENEMA!!

    June 5, 2012 at 8:16 pm | Reply
  21. Camille Mseikeh

    Only few days ago, I read a comment related to the Zimmerman saga, where the author asserted that "he often became violent after having used marijoana".
    I ask the accountant who came with the $17.4 B the following question "Are you sure the cost of making marijoana legal is just $0?" Because we are obviously headed in that direction, and if you are going to promote it on the basis of profitablility, then I guess to be honest you MUST caculate the cost and tell us the NET profit, and then we are doing some serious reasoning as opposed to silly propoganda.
    What if it was true that using marijoana made Martin more aggreassive and led him to beat Zimmerman who ended up shooting him?
    Drugs are the way to waste you and your society. THE ONLY WAY TO save your money and yada yada yada is promote abstinence from using drugs, not promote drugs....

    June 5, 2012 at 7:38 pm | Reply
  22. J

    -Tom, a very rational and social conscious view of the Woody Harrelson drug....Angelo, you know you might not want to smoke that stuff before you decide to chirp in on the Comment section....

    June 5, 2012 at 6:48 pm | Reply
    • Suzette

      Great – now please stop the War against medical marijuana cancer patients in San Diego. We are suffering.
      Democrats will lose the election because we once loved Obama and now he is just our domestic terrorist.

      June 5, 2012 at 10:09 pm | Reply
  23. Reilleyfam

    Legalize & Tax – it's no worse than alcohol.

    Live & Let Live.

    June 5, 2012 at 6:40 pm | Reply
  24. Richard

    Erin, I laughed at those sunglasses but they look good on you.
    Cannabis prohibition has been used as a "Jim Crow" law for decades to disenfranchise millions of Americans and to ruin their lives. It is long past time to re-schedule marijuana out of the "class 1" designation it has had for so long and to put it in a more accurate place in the DEA's drug schedule. Congress could re-schedule it also.
    I guess we'd better give up on "Choom gang" member Obama to face any domestic issues like this one. I think he is too embarrassed or something to help his fellow Americans fight these Jim Crow laws.

    June 5, 2012 at 4:57 pm | Reply
  25. Jim McTague

    How about piggy-backing a long overdue legislation along with this, where law-abiding citizens with a valid NYS concealed carry gun permit be recognized in New York City. Right now, that's not the case. Stop the nonsense. If the Gov. wants pot smokers to have full pot-carry rights, then legally licensed gun carriers should have their full rights in this State, as well.

    June 5, 2012 at 4:03 pm | Reply
  26. Danny M

    Just don't dare buy those BIG drinks.

    June 5, 2012 at 3:57 pm | Reply
  27. Patrick

    Legalize now!

    June 5, 2012 at 3:01 pm | Reply
  28. awetmedic

    The war on drugs has killed more people, harmed more people and cost much more than it has ever done to protect society. A considerable amount of crime and harm are committed against society by gangs in Mexico and in the USA because of the war on drugs. Legalize pot and you do more to cut down on crime and save lives than you do with a harmful war that is unwinnable, expensive and that harms the future of young people who get busted just once. Is there anyone that has died from smoking pot? How many people have been killed in drug related crime?

    June 5, 2012 at 2:48 pm | Reply
  29. Tom

    For all intents and purposes MARIJUANA IS ALREADY AND COMPLETELY LEGAL not only in NY but in virtually all the rest of the world. Only Andrew Cuomo, the entire NY State Assembly and similar collections of openly corrupt politicians still labor under the myopic idea that anyone who smokes weed or drops acid gives any thought what so ever as to what those "corporate minded male minds" have deemed is legal or illegal. After all, how much moral credibility can anyone give to those who hypocritically state that they have chosen to be "servants of the people" while they in fact allow for the real oppression of so many? Otherwise they would move heaven and earth to find some way of immediately ending a judicial system which is notorious for being oppressive of the poor and manages to have more people in prison than any other dictatorship in the world

    June 5, 2012 at 2:29 pm | Reply
    • Ty

      Wow Tom! Excellent writing. Can I post this on my Facebook page? Giving you credit of course. Best comment I've read on CNN ever.

      June 5, 2012 at 4:14 pm | Reply
    • Oglethorpe

      Tom your take on the legality of marijuana is quite flawed. It is not legal in any state to posses marijuana with out a OMMP card. The penalties differ depending on the amount. And it is totally not legal to sell marijuana in any state. That said I don't believe anyone will be arrested or prosecuted for small amounts of Marijuana. The people that should be and are being targeted are the drug cartels and highscale dealers. The only legal use should be medical not personal use.

      June 5, 2012 at 7:58 pm | Reply
  30. Nick

    This sounds good and everything but we should realize that 17 billion of the 17.4 billion dollars saved/earned would be sent directly to places like Afganistan. I'd like to legally partake but not if the US government is going to continue to support terrorist agencies with tax money from US citizens.

    June 5, 2012 at 2:12 pm | Reply
  31. naw

    why is the U.S. more willing to legalize a drug than legalize gay marriage? This doesn't seem to be a great idea, because it'll become like cigarettes and have tons of toxicities in it. Besides, we can't exactly tax this if it's home grown, which would be legal upon decriminalization. So maybe we'd save some time and money if we legalize marijuana, but think about what could happen to children who's parents do it. Would there be a legal age? How could it be enforced? There seems to be too many holes for there to be a good legalization of this. I used to think it was a great idea, but I thought about beyond just the money and all the people that would be happy. I'm pretty sure the only reason why the U.S. would legalize this is to save money and try to get some so it can keep it's massive defense budget that we don't need. Maybe we should stop babysitting the world before we think about legalizing marijuana.

    June 5, 2012 at 1:52 pm | Reply
  32. Dub

    Spending so much money on a victimless crime is dumb.

    June 5, 2012 at 1:42 pm | Reply
  33. angelo


    June 5, 2012 at 12:52 pm | Reply
    • Nick

      Im sure you were high when you wrote this :))

      June 5, 2012 at 1:37 pm | Reply
  34. Idunno

    Too much money in selling it to you at the state level then arresting you at the federal level. Everyone keeps saying "it'll raise 2 billion annually in taxes", ya they don't even charge you tax at the dispensaries, or if they do then it's in the price. You buy a $20/g you pay $20, not $21.20. And that $1.20 is nothing compared to the $5,000 they can screw you out of for possession of a gram. In MI, if an officer learns you have a medical card during a stop they can use that as grounds to get a warrant to draw your blood, even if you obeyed the 2.5 hours between smoking and driving rule the THC stays in your system for atleast a few days and ANY THC nanograms found in your blood is considered OUI. The $5000 in court costs, then $ to a lawyer, then $1000 to the state in "Driver responsibility fees" far out weighs any tax revenue the state is going to generate through 6% sales tax.

    June 5, 2012 at 12:46 pm | Reply
  35. Sharon Price

    We all know probition didn't work so why do we keep expecting the ban on marijuana to be any different. In my opinion it needs to be legalized and regulated like alcohol...

    June 5, 2012 at 12:29 pm | Reply
  36. reekerbreeker

    This story fails to mention that marijuana is already an infraction in California, the largest state. Where is the "news" in this story? CNN should just go back to the Queen's jubilee, and forget about manufacturing other "news."

    June 5, 2012 at 12:26 pm | Reply
  37. sissie

    Are you people completely crazy?????? If you have never seen a BABY borned from a person who smokes marijuana, you need to see their Birth Defects..... You put ads on TV ref. Cig smoking and want to make marijuana legal??? Where are you coming from- where ever it is go back

    June 5, 2012 at 12:26 pm | Reply
  38. Theresa

    I think it's a huge waste of taxpayers' money that could be put to much better use for something worthwhile. It's less harmful to society than alcohol, and you can buy that legally anywhere if you are of legal age. I don't even use the stuff, but I definitely think it should be made legal.

    June 5, 2012 at 12:24 pm | Reply
  39. colaroaster

    a man w/o weed is a man in need

    June 5, 2012 at 12:15 pm | Reply
  40. Justin

    I'm glad Gov. Cuomo is clarifying this law even though small amounts have been 'decriminalized' for some time now. In my opinion he needs to take an extra step towards legalizing it. Much like the prohibition of alcohol, the prohibition of marijuana is a drain on our legal system and fines/jails many innocent people every day. If a person commits a crime while on a narcotic they should be charged for the crime itself, there is no need for us to tell adults what they can and cannot put in their own body.

    June 5, 2012 at 8:59 am | Reply
  41. Amir

    : ) what's that mean there, I think your right. there is a lot of restructuring that needs to go on. were doing that back east...... It's a lot of work. I'm surprised at the dedication that's going on there. Lots of work............. Lots' of work....

    June 4, 2012 at 11:10 pm | Reply

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