Church & State
Cops resemble “slave catchers.” Sal Albanese never smoked a joint. The Bloomberg Administration has locked the men of God out of City Hall.
These were all arguments presented at yesterday’s peculiar mayoral forum, moderated by clergymen in the Bronx.
“How do you make the city safe with the thugs who are running around from the police department undercover who are from the outer boroughs and Long Island?” Randy Credico, a comedian and long-shot mayoral candidate, boomed. “They have thousands of undercover cops that are whacked out on steroids, going around like slave catchers, this is true, like slave catchers did back in the 1860′s and 1850′s in the wake of the fugitive slave law.”
Republican Assemblyman Steve Katz is due to appear in court later this month after he was arrested for marijuana possession following a traffic stop on the New York State Thruway yesterday morning. According to the New York State Police, who amusingly spell marijuana with an “H,” when Mr. Katz was stopped for speeding the trooper smelled the drug in his car and subsequently found him to be in “possession of a small bag of marihuana.”
In his final State of the City address this afternoon, Mayor Michael Bloomberg unveiled a number of new policies he’ll implement in the last of his twelve years in office. In addition to banning Styrofoam in restaurants and an expansion of electric car parking space, among other initiatives, Mr. Bloomberg notably announced the city will simply ticket and release New Yorkers caught with misdemeanor amounts of marijuana, rather than holding them in custody.
“There’s more we can do to keep New Yorkers, particularly young men, from ending up with a criminal record,” Mr. Bloomberg declared. “Commissioner Kelly and I support Governor Cuomo’s proposal to make possession of small amounts of marijuana a violation, rather than a misdemeanor. And we’ll work to help him pass it this year. But I’ll tell you, we won’t wait for that to happen.”
Up in Smoke
While a growing number of states have been legalizing medical and even recreational use of marijuana, the popular plant remains illegal in New York. However, an upcoming pair of new medical marijuana bills in the Legislature and Governor Andrew Cuomo’s proposal to decriminalize possession of small amounts of the drug may signal the Empire State is on its way to looser marijuana regulations.
Earlier today, Abe George, a former prosecutor in the Manhattan district attorney’s office and a candidate next year against incumbent Brooklyn D.A. Joe Hynes announced one of his key campaign platforms will be relaxing penalties for marijuana possession.
“As a career prosecutor who spent considerable time investigating and prosecuting drug crimes, I have seen first hand how valuable resources have been wasted enforcing antiquated marijuana laws rather than fighting crimes that directly impact the public good,” Mr. George said in a statement that also noted anti-marijuana laws’ disproportionate effect on young minorities. “Brooklyn, which has long led the city in homicides and shootings, cannot wait until the New York State Legislature acts at some unknown time to finally decriminalize marijuana possession.”
The Colbert Report devoted one of its segments to Albany politics last night, complete with a particularly amusing image of Governor Andrew Cuomo with a The Cat in the Hat-style hat on. The topic? Mr. Cuomo pushing the State Legislature to combine any pay raise for themselves with several other policies he would like to be passed. However, Stephen Colbert, as he is wont to do, focused solely on the Cuomo-backed legislation reducing the penalty for having less than 25 grams of marijuana to a violation.
This morning, Buzzfeed published excerpts from Dave Maraniss’ upcoming biography of Barack Obama that detail the president’s usage of marijuana in high school and his years at Occidental College. Mr. Maraniss revealed some of the common names for pot stains in Hawaii, the specific weed slang employed by President Obama and his buddies at Punahou high school and their preferred smoking soundtrack (Blue Oyster Cult, Stevie Wonder and Aerosmith).
Though the excerpts from Mr. Maraniss’ book have generated considerable excitement among the chattering classes, the president has admitted to youthful drug use for years now and, in the past, former classmates have described it as a relatively small part of his life.
Saying No To Drugs
Mitt Romney was appalled when a reporter asked him about medical marijuana during an interview with a local CBS affiliate in Colorado today. He responded by angrily listing off a list of questions he’d prefer to be asked.
“Aren’t there issues? Aren’t there issues of significance that youd like to talk about? The economy? The growth of jobs? The need to put people back to work? The challenges of Iran? We’ve got enormous issues that we face,” Mr. Romney said.
The reporter, Shaun Boyd, replied that medical marijuana is “a significant issue” in Colorado, where it was legalized in 2000. Mr. Romney reluctantly agreed to discuss the topic.
City Council members Letitia James, Melissa Mark Viverito and Jumaane Williams joined protesters this morning who gathered on 5th Avenue and 79th Street — the corner where Mayor Bloomberg’s town house is located — to protest the city’s record of arresting mostly African-American and Latino people for minor drug offenses.
They tried connecting the city’s worsening economy with the expenses the city is paying to bust people for relatively low-level criminality.
Viverito: “During these tough economic times, when we are contemplating severe cuts to basic municipal and human services the $75 million we spend on marijuana arrests each year should be among the first places we look for savings.”
Williams: “We wasted between $50-$100 million alone last year arresting individuals for low-level marijuana violations, all at a time where the Mayor proposes cutting essential services to our children and seniors.”
James: “Our youth already have to worry about the lack of available jobs, which is difficult enough, the last thing they need is to be victims of illegal searches.”