Home Business Could Adult-Use Cannabis Legalization Help Stop New York’s Population Exodus?

Could Adult-Use Cannabis Legalization Help Stop New York’s Population Exodus?


Across the state, New York is losing its population. According to 2019 US Census data, the state saw a loss of nearly 77,000 citizens, or .4% of its population. In total, New York has lost almost 1.4 million citizens since 2010. During the same period, the state saw its domestic net migration fall by over 180,600 people, marking the second-highest decline, behind California. 

Marking its fourth year of population decline, New York is outpaced only by Alaska, Illinois and West Virginia in dwindling population percentage rates. 

People are leaving across the entire state. Nevertheless, be it the city’s notable status or just people’s desire to leave, New York City is a focal point of the issue. This is due to its own staggering loss reports. People are fleeing New York City at a record pace as of late. So much so that the city is seeing an average loss of 277 citizens per day, according to 2018 Census data on migration in America’s 100 largest cities. 

Between July 2017 and 2018, the five boroughs lost nearly 200,000 people. The most affected district during the period was Queens, which lost 18,000 citizens. Brooklyn experienced the second-highest loss at 13,500. That said, the city did find some population balancing in the form of international migration, which brought 100,000 new citizens into the area. 

The loss of people may affect New York in several ways, ranging from its talent pool to the upcoming federal legislative sessions. In the case of the latter, New York could lose two congressional seats by 2022. If that occurs, the state would be reduced to 25 representatives. 

Why New Yorkers are Leaving

The continued loss is being chalked up to a myriad of issues. 

One of the most glaring is the lack of job opportunities. State employment trends highlight the highest level of jobs on record in 2018, 4.55 million. However, others say that corporate hiring leaders left the area after scores of mergers, acquisitions and subsequent relocations. 

Many believe that state politicians don’t have any plans to attract opportunities either. Critics point towards New York City mayor Bill de Blasio spending months on the campaign trail making an attempt at the White House.

Other knocks against the mayor are aimed at his 2017 New York Works plan, which aimed to create 100,000 “good-paying jobs” over the next decade. However, by 2019 local lawmakers in Queens were questioning just how many jobs had been created. It was stated that 3,000 jobs had actually been created. However, that figure received pushback when asked if the Economic Development Corporation (EDC) work that already existed was being rebranded as middle class jobs under the program.  

With an alleged lack of care by lawmakers, many cite more prosperous opportunities for leaving. Some believe that New York City’s reputation as the must-be place to earn a reputation as a hustling business leader is eroding. Today, people don’t have to live in a significant market to run a viable business or establish themselves as a leader in their space. This is especially true in markets where New York once dominated, like media and fashion. 

Those finding work aren’t all that satisfied either. New York City has a sky-high cost of living, 148% higher than the average for other U.S. cities in 2019, to be exact. This includes rent, which may or may not continue to have broker fees and an average per square foot cost of over $1,300. 

Then, there is the commute. The city’s subway system is overextended and still recovering from the effects of Hurricane Sandy in 2012. In the years since, Mayor de Blasio and Governor Andrew Cuomo have repeatedly clashed on key issues. This includes repairing the vital L train line that connects a significant part of Brooklyn with downtown Manhattan. In January 2020, matters were made worse when Andy Byford left his role focused on reviving the MTA, throwing doubts into what progress will come to the city’s subways. 

How Cannabis Could Play a Part

With economic growth and infrastructure plaguing the state, New York could use a solution. While not able to address all the concerns of the Empire State, a legal cannabis market may be a step in solving some of New York’s woes. 

“May” being of the utmost emphasis. Legalization isn’t a fix-all cure in that it brings jobs and tax dollars to states once its permitted for sales. To create a thriving cannabis market, it is up to the state to implement proper legislation that tailors to the market and its consumers.

Deborah Tharp, a cannabis-focused political consultant, campaign manager and legal researcher for Nugg and NuggMD, pointed towards IZA Institute of Labor Economics data concerning Colorado. The IZA Institute‘s research comparing job growth post-legalization with numbers from 2005 to 2009 found that legalization increased in-migration by 11.4% and 19.7% in each year since 2011.

On the other hand, California’s ongoing issues with legislation, taxation and sticker costs continue. With concerns surrounding the market, job growth in the nascent sector isn’t enough to stop California from losing its citizens. 

“While we here at NuggMD are still experiencing growth and a good substantial return on our business model, many California cannabis businesses are collapsing due to over-regulation,” explained Tharp. She elaborated on the side effects in the state. “This means less jobs, less tax funding that could go toward the citizens who are in need, and less economic growth for the state overall.”

Overall, cannabis is proving to be a job creator. Leafly’s 2019 Cannabis Jobs Count report found that over 211,000 people earned a living from the marijuana industry. However, with the sector facing a downturn as of late, major players have laid off hundreds in bids to become profitable. 

With such a risk in the market, cannabis can’t be relied on as a major job creator at this time. That said, the future does appear bright. New York could be one of many states to attract job seekers with an adequately implemented marketplace and regulations. That said, even if rolled out seamlessly, cannabis won’t solve issues like New York’s high taxes and crumbling infrastructure. While the plant is important and should see adult-use pass in the state this year, it is unlikely to do more than play a part in reviving the state’s ongoing population slide. Much more work beyond cannabis is required to fix the Empire State’s population concerns.