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
Local

Drug overdoses on the rise in New York…

Recently released health department numbers show more than one person a day in New York City overdoses on an opioid, such as heroin. From 2010…

National

Santa Fe city council votes to decriminalize marijuana

By Joseph KolbALBUQUERQUE N.M. (Reuters) - Santa Fe on Wednesday became the latest U.S. city to decriminalize small amounts of marijuana, with lawmakers in the…

International

Egypt queries Mursi over documents "leaked" to Al…

CAIRO (Reuters) - Egypt is investigating jailed ex-president Mohamed Mursi in connection with documents that judicial investigators say were leaked to the Qatar-based Al Jazeera…

International

Ebola toll tops 1,550, outbreak accelerates: WHO

GENEVA (Reuters) - The Ebola outbreak in West Africa has killed more than 1,552 people out of 3,069 known cases in four countries and "continues…

The Word

The Word: Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie finally…

Well, everybody, it finally happened. Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie went and got themselves hitched — according to noted scandal sheet the Associated Press —…

Television

TV watch list, Thursday, Aug. 28: 'Welcome to…

"Welcome to Sweden" wraps up its first season with a two episode run tonight, featuring a special appearance from the star's sister, Ms. Amy Poehler.

Movies

Interview: 'Life of Crime' star John Hawkes likes…

John Hawkes talks about playing a bumbling crook in "Life of Crime" and how he wanted his "Martha Marcy May Marlene" villain to be "bland."

Gossip

Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie got married

The couple tied the knot in Chateau Miraval, France.

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.

NFL

Giants vs. Patriots: 3 things to watch

The Giants wrap up their extended preseason campaign Thursday night by playing host to the Patriots.

NFL

Fantasy football: What to take away from preseason

The third set of exhibition games, which went down last weekend, is the dress rehearsal week.

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…