As the snow pours down on New York City, this year's mayoral race continues to heat up. Friday's hearing on paid sick leave turned into a major media event, and talk of Christine Quinn blocking legislation for three years became the hot talk of New York's twitterati over the weekend. By Monday morning, the NYC council had decided to move on paid sick days without Quinn, finally forcing her to the bargaining table.
As the pack catches up to Quinn in the race for the Democratic Party nomination in 2013, some large differences have emerged between the candidates. While De Blasio and Liu seem to be gaining the most momentum, long time populist Democrat Sal Albanese (a New York sort of Bernie Sanders), has also been gaining a lot of attention despite his current long-shot status within the field.
During an MSNBC panel with the NY mayoral candidates (one in which Quinn declined to appear), Albanese said he would legalize and tax marijuana as mayor. Legalizing marijuana would not only increase city revenues (at a time when we're shutting doors on public schools) but it would also mean a serious savings for law enforcement and forensic departments whose limited resources would no longer be eaten up by non-violent offenders of a law, now considered obsolete by many New Yorkers.
According to a recent report, the New York Police Department spent over one million hours making pot arrests over the last decade. The weekly cost of the city's draconian marijuana laws is about $1.5 million to the taxpayer, wasting over 2,000 police hours and leading to more than1,000 dubious arrests each week.
On the state level, the new budget was expected to include marijuana law reforms. In a major last minute sell-out by Democratic legislators trying win Republican approval of the budget, both the marijuana reform and magazine limits were pulled out of this year's budget. For pot-smoking new yorkers, including medical marijuana users, this means another year of being criminalized for a non-violent habit regularly shown to be far less addictive than alcohol or cigarettes. While Albanese may not end up with the Democratic party nomination come September, this type of forward thinking will certainly gain him a lot of early grassroots attention and support.
--BQ Brew News Staff