Former New York City Council President Advocates for Marijuana Equity and Social Justice
New York’s progressive former City Council President Melissa Mark-Viverito wants to be the city’s next Public Advocate. A special election will be held on Feb. 26. A total of 23 candidates are running, including five other current or former Council members.
Public Advocate is essentially a watchdog position. However, it’s second in line to the Mayor, which makes this a particularly important race.
Mark-Viverito made a campaign stop Jan. 22 at CannaGather, New York’s largest monthly meetup of marijuana enthusiasts.
Making Her Mark at CannaGather
She started by saying, “I’ve always been a supporter of the legalization of marijuana,” which is true. Before it was popular in New York, the three-term Council leader took that stance. “I support legalization primarily from a social justice perspective. I firmly believe in social equity and justice. We have to level the playing field and bring more equity.”
Now that legalization appears to be around the corner in New York State – Gov. Andrew Cuomo’a 191-page Cannabis Regulation and Taxation Act (CRTA) was released Jan. 15 – Mark-Viverito wants to make sure the legislation helps “people who’ve been most impacted by the War on Drugs.”
MELISSA MARK-VIVERITO: “I support legalization primarily from a social justice perspective. I firmly believe in social equity and justice. We have to level the playing field and bring more equity.”
“By my second term (as City Council president), 50,000 people were getting arrested for marijuana,” she explained. “The vast majority of those were people of color. This disparity is something we need to rectify.”
Mark-Viverito questioned Cuomo’s commitment to equity and social justice. “There are all these caveats,” Mark-Viverito said about the CRTA. “Are you really for it or are you trying to play to all the sides?” She added: “If the bill is included in the budget, it would have to get done by April 1.”
Pot-Tax Proposal: Weed for Rails
Running on the “Fix the MTA” line (a.k.a. Weed for Rails), she proposes to split tax revenues gained from marijuana sales between the equity and justice issues discussed above and New York’s transportation infrastructure. Over the last few years, the Metropolitan Transit Authority has been struggling to keep up with necessary subway system repairs. “Who here has been stuck in a delay?” Mark-Viverito asked. Many hands were raised.
“We have to be mindful how this industry rolls out in this state,” she continued. “Those who’ve been on the receiving end of these unjust policies need to benefit from these opportunities. That can’t be forgotten.”
Her final salvo was directed at former Speaker of the House John Boehner, who joined the board of Acreage Holdings, a cannabis company, last year.
“It angers me to hear that Boehner is now talking about the legalization of marijuana when he and his party were the ones that implemented these policies that have been impacting our communities,” she roiled.” This is the kind of stuff that people in elected office should be held accountable for.”
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