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
National

Florida man charged with murdering son to play…

A Florida man annoyed that his 16-month-old crying son was preventing him from playing video games suffocated the toddler, police said on Friday.

International

Powerful 7.2 magnitude earthquake rattles Mexico

A powerful earthquake struck Mexico Friday, shaking buildings and sending people running into the street, although there were no reports of major damage.

News

OMG! Exercise can make skin (and butt) look…

A moderate exercise regime can turn back time and actually reverse the skin's aging process, according to new research. The study showed that a minimum…

International

Jews in eastern Ukraine ordered to register, Kerry…

Secretary of State John Kerry condemned reports that Jews in eastern Ukraine had been ordered to register with the authorities "or suffer the consequences."

Entertainment

Whoopi Goldberg makes her debut as marijuana columnist

"It helps my head stop hurting, and with glaucoma your eyes ache, and she takes the ache out. It's wonderful," she said.

The Word

Kate Middleton made fun of Prince William's bald…

Kate Middleton and Prince William are in Sydney, Australia, right now, and it sounds like that brash Aussie sense of humor might be rubbing off.

The Word

Is Tom Cruise dating Laura Prepon?

"Mission: Impossible" star Cruise is said to be dating Laura Prepon, star of "Orange is the New Black."

Television

'Scandal' recap: Season 3, Episode 18, 'The Price…

Sally is Jesus, Olivia caused global warming, and Mellie's still drunk. Let's recap the Scandal finale. A church full of Washington insiders is about to…

NBA

Carmelo Anthony agonizing over Knicks future as season…

There’s still the cloud hanging over the franchise’s head as to the pending free-agent status of All-Star forward Carmelo Anthony.

NFL

Jets host players with eye toward NFL Draft

The Jets hosted a number of NFL Draft hopefuls for workouts on Thursday, with an eye toward some under-the-radar players.

NFL

Chris Johnson: I wanted to go to 'a…

Now that Chris Johnson is a Jet, the team has to figure out if one of the most explosive players in the NFL over the last half decade has anything…

NHL

Rangers' speed versus Flyers' size makes interesting playoff…

Among the myriad aspects that will make this Metropolitan Division semifinal series fascinating will be the battle between the Rangers' speed and the Flyers' size,…

Tech

VIDEO: 'Vein-scanning' may become the future of paying

Designed to make transactions quicker and easier, the technology works by scanning the unique vein patterns in each person's palm.

Tech

#FollowFriday: 10 of the smartest Twitter accounts

Spending lots of time on Twitter? You might as well learn something. Here are some of the smartest accounts to follow.

Style

Light-up nail art syncs with phone

This Japanese technology syncs light-up nail art with your phone.

Wellbeing

Why is dance cardio taking off in NYC?

Instructors at some of the city's hottest classes explain why.