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MTA fare increases or service cuts could be coming, officials warned. 

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New York City subway delays got you stressed? Chill out and take a toke: legal marijuana may be the answer to fixing the city’s transit crisis, says Melissa Mark-Viverito.

Mark-Viverito, former speaker of the New York City Council and current candidate for public advocate, unveiled on Thursday her “Weed for Rails” plan, calling on state officials to legalize weed as a way to pay for subway repairs.

“Every day when I take the subway, all I can think is, ‘Please let the train be running. Please don’t stop in between stations. Please don’t skip my stop,’” she said at a press conference. “Yet our elected officials ignore the subway or fight with each other about it. Some don’t even use the MTA.”

This past summer, only 68 percent of New York City subway trains were on time. In August, all but one morning rush hour was free of any signal or mechanical issues. And those delays are more than just an annoyance — New York City subway delays cost nearly $400 million in lost business productivity and wages.

 

And this while the MTA is cash-strapped, facing up to $42 billion in outstanding debt. But an untapped revenue, according to Mark-Viverito, lies within legal marijuana.

In 2015, Colorado collected $135 million in legal marijuana tax revenue. In the first five days of retail marijuana in Massachusetts, the state’s two pot shops sold more than $2.2 million work of legal marijuana products.

“Given the size of New York’s population, the marijuana market here has the potential to yield $1.3 billion annually,” according to Mark-Viverito. “During the next legislative session, Weed for Rails lays out a plan for New York to legalize marijuana, put no less than 50 percent of tax revenue into a lock box specifically earmarked for transit improvements and to provide an opportunity for redress for communities that have been most adversely affected by marijuana arrests.”

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Weed for Rails: How could legal marijuana fix the New York City subway?

Mark-Viverito’s Weed for Rails plan lays out four steps for fixing the New York City subway with the tax revenue from legal marijuana.

1. As public advocate, Mark-Viverito submit a memorandum of support for legal marijuana and organize a grassroots movement to push Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the state legislature to do so in the 2019 legislative session. Mark-Viverito has called for legal marijuana since 2014.

2. Mark-Viverito will then advocate for the state to use the legal marijuana tax revenue to pay for New York City subway repairs, setting up a “lockbox” designation no less than half of that revenue to public transit and potentially minimizing future fare hikes.

3. Along with funding the MTA through legal marijuana, Mark-Viverito wants to right the wrongs of marijuana enforcement by expunging criminal convictions for New Yorkers arrested for recreational weed use, prioritize women and minority-run businesses in the new cannabis economy and create a fund to support nonprofits that teach business management to low-income communities.

4. The final step would be “programmatic oversight,” according to Mark-Viverito, including public oversight hearings on marijuana enforcement and the implementation of the NYPD policy that issues tickets rather than arrests for marijuana use.

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