Former Congressman Anthony Weiner may have Big Thought Thursdays, but city Comptroller John Liu just had a big pot Wednesday.
Mr. Liu, whose campaign took a major hit when he was denied matching funds last week, unveiled a proposal to legalize marijuana in New York City today, comparing the status quo’s ban on the substance to the country’s infamous prohibition against alcohol a hundred years ago.
“It’s time to recognize that the prohibition of marijuana has failed,” Mr. Liu defiantly stated. “And its enforcement has damaged too many lives, especially the minority communities.”
To highlight his point, Mr. Liu distributed a ten-page policy outline with charts demonstrating the disparity between arrests for marijuana possession among whites and minorities. It showed, for instance, that 86 percent of those arrested for marijuana possession were individuals of color. Mr. Liu also provided a comprehensive list of marijuana varieties and their prices, including “Strawberry Cough,” the most expensive according to the report, and “Guava Chem,” at the lower end of the cost spectrum.
Aside from maybe giving him an in with the pothead vote, Mr. Liu, who has been lagging badly in the polls, argued legalizing the substance could yield almost $400 million in tax revenue for the city, which could be used to lower tuition at the City University of New York.
But Mr. Liu made it clear that the proposal wasn’t out of any self-interested desire to get high. Despite his recent adventure on a skateboard in Brooklyn, the comptroller reiterated that he has never smoked marijuana in the past and has no intention to do so in the future. He also questioned the often-assumed connection between skaters and stoner culture.
“I have never accepted that kind of correlation between skaters and this culture that you’re referring to,” Mr. Liu told Politicker. “Look, this is New York City. We’re a very dynamic city. The bottom line is that 900,000 New Yorkers are using marijuana on a regular basis.”
Still, Mr. Liu declined to say whether he thought a history with the drug would jeopardize the integrity of his fellow candidates.
“I haven’t thought about that,” he said, quickly pivoting to his on-message talking points.
It should be noted that the proposal would require authorization from the State Legislature and is therefore unlikely to come to pass any time soon. But Mr. Liu nevertheless remained confident he could build a coalition among advocates, including district attorneys, police officers and consumer advocacy groups.