Comptroller John Liu pushes to legalize marijuana in NYC

John Liu proposed Wednesday legalizing marijuana and using some of the revenue to cut CUNY tuition costs in half. Credit: Danielle Tcholakian
John Liu proposed Wednesday legalizing marijuana and using some of the revenue to cut CUNY tuition costs in half. Credit: Danielle Tcholakian

Marijuana legalization advocates have some hard numbers on their side, thanks to a report from the office of the City Comptroller.

Comptroller John Liu announced a proposal today that would make marijuana legal in New York City: New Yorkers age 21 and older would be permitted to possess up to one ounce of marijuana.

Liu delivered some shocking statistics: in the Bronx, approximately one percent of the entire adult population was arrested for low-level marijuana possession in 2012.

“Most of those arrested are under 25 years old,” Liu said. “Just getting started, And many will suffer for the rest of their lives.”

Both Liu and Gabriel Sayegh with the Drug Policy Alliance emphasized the racial disparity in marijuana arrests, as well: The proportion of white New Yorkers and black and Hispanic New Yorkers who use marijuana are roughly the same, but black and Hispanic New Yorkers make up 86 percent of arrests while white New Yorkers only account for 11 percent.

Shapriece Townsend, a young man working with VOCAL-NY, recounted an incident when he was arrested for low level marijuana possession. He said he had just left his grandmother’s house when an unmarked police car sped up to him and pinned his leg against a fence. Plainclothes officers jumped out, patted him down and illegally searched his pockets, and then arrested him for the small amount of marijuana he was carrying.

Shapriece Townsend, pictured here, said he missed work and was suspe
Shapriece Townsend, pictured here, said he missed work and was suspended from school when he spent three days in jail for a misdemeanor marijuana arrest. Credit: Danielle Tcholakian

Townsend said he spent three days in jail, missed work and was suspended from school.

“Were President Obama a law school student in New York City today, using marijuana as he did at that time, it would be very likely that he would be stopped, questioned, illegally searched and potentially arrested for marijuana,” Sayegh speculated. “And had that happened, he would likely not be the president that we have today.”

Liu’s proposal likens the regulation of marijuana with that of alcohol, and the current situation to the era of Prohibition.

“Look how badly the prohibition of alcohol worked,” Liu said. “It drove alcohol and the people who wanted to consume it into the hands of gangsters operating in an underground environment.”

A major draw in Liu’s proposal is his idea to use some of the revenue from the legalization to reduce tuition to city universities by as much as 50 percent.

Liu’s proposal is supported by Joanne Naughton, a petite white-haired former NYPD lieutenant who used to work undercover in narcotics.

Joanne Naughton is a former NYPD lieutenant who used to work undercover in narcotics. Credit: Danielle Tcholakian
Joanne Naughton is a former NYPD lieutenant who used to work undercover in narcotics. Credit: Danielle Tcholakian

“I went out on the streets and I bought heroin and cocaine and pills and everything else,” Naughton said. “Decades ago—and we’re still doing it. What we did then and what we’re doing now doesn’t work. If it worked, we wouldn’t be here, we wouldn’t have a problem.”

Naughton shrugged off the notion that some people won’t want to buy marijuana legally, because they won’t want to be perceived as a marijuana user, particularly those with employers who may frown on marijuana use.

“They’ll have to make changes,” Naughton insisted. “You can’t penalize people for doing something that’s lawful unless you can show that it’s affecting their work.”

Naughton allowed that “there will be a period of time where kinks will have to be worked out,” but said legalizing the substance would serve to reduce and eventually eliminate the stigma that leads to furtive use.

For his part, Liu said he has never smoked marijuana and would not even if it was legal.

 

By the numbers, according to the Comptroller’s office

20 percent excise tax would be applied, as well as a 8.875

$400 million generated in sales and excise taxes

$69 million of those taxes would go to the State and MTA as higher sales taxes

$31 million a year would be saved in reduced law enforcement and court costs by cutting misdemeanor arrests

 

Follow Danielle Tcholakian on Twitter @danielleiat



News
Entertainment
Sports
Lifestyle
International

China's army changes tactics to prepare for war…

Chinese President Xi Jinping has said China will spur military innovation and called on the army to create a new strategy for "information warfare" as…

National

California passes 'yes-means-yes' campus sexual assault bill

Californian lawmakers passed a law on Thursday requiring universities to adopt "affirmative consent" language in their definitions of consensual sex, part of a nationwide drive to curb sexual assault on…

National

Syrian refugees top 3 million, half of all…

By Stephanie NebehayGENEVA (Reuters) - Three million Syrian refugees will have registered in neighboring countries as of Friday, but many remain trapped by the advance…

International

North Korean leader's money manager defects in Russia:…

A senior North Korean banking official who managed money for leader Kim Jong Un has defected in Russia and was seeking asylum in a third country, a South Korean newspaper…

Going Out

'Friends' coffeehouse Central Perk coming to NYC —…

"Friends" is coming back for a one-off special: "The One with the Free Coffee." Warner Bros. is bringing a pop-up replica of Central Perk, the…

Movies

Interview: 'As Above, So Below' directors: 5 ways…

The fraternal directors of the found footage horror "As Above, So Below" dish on the best ways to frighten the bejesus out of audiences.

Movies

Criterion's new Jacques Demy box mixes the light…

Jacques Demy, the most effervescent of French New Wave filmmakers, gets a Criterion box all to himself, with classics like "The Umbrellas of Cherbourg."

Entertainment

Comedian Joan Rivers, 81, rushed to New York…

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Acerbic comedian and fashion critic Joan Rivers was rushed to Mount Sinai Hospital in New York on Thursday after she reportedly…

NFL

3 things we learned in the Giants preseason…

The final score didn’t matter — a 16-13 win by the Giants — but it would’ve been nice to finally see Big Blue’s new-look offense get on track.

NFL

NFL Power Rankings: Seahawks, Broncos, Patriots, 49ers start…

NFL Power Rankings: Seahawks, Broncos, Patriots start at top

U.S. Soccer

5 facts about new England captain Wayne Rooney

Manchester United striker Wayne Rooney was named as the new England captain by coach Roy Hodgson on Thursday.

NFL

Jets vs. Eagles: 3 things to watch

A win on Thursday night at the Eagles would give the Jets a 3-1 record and just their second winning preseason under head coach Rex Ryan.

Style

Trend: White hot on the 2014 Emmy's red…

White was one of the big trends on the Emmy's red carpet.

Food

Recipe: Samuel Adams beer-marinated grilled shrimp

Summer calls for two things: a cold beer and light food. Sam Adams' Latitude 48 IPA fairly bursts with citrus notes, making it an ideal marinade…

Wellbeing

4 healthy ingredient swaps to make your meals…

When it comes to eating well, everyone knows they could be doing better. But cooking in an apartment on a busy schedule is a recipe…

Wellbeing

Heart trumps brain when it comes to movies…

When you need a good cry, do you reach for the movie that’s “based on a true story”? Science says you’re giving your brain far…