Liz Krueger Pressing for Pot Legalization

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State Senator Liz Krueger, an East Side Democrat. | NEW YORK STATE SENATE
State Senator Liz Krueger, an East Side Democrat. | NEW YORK STATE SENATE

Draft provisions of a “tax and regulate” marijuana bill is being circulated by State Senator Liz Krueger, an East Side Democrat.

Washington State and Colorado enacted such laws last year in referendums that make the recreational use of cannabis legal. The voters in these two western states accepted the argument that legalization makes sense after weighing the risks of marijuana use against the benefits of increased revenue.

Ethan Nadelmann, executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance that is helping to draft the new bill, explained that popular acceptance of marijuana has followed a path similar to that of marriage equality — with support steadily growing since the 1990s. A 2011 Gallup Poll showed 50 percent of Americans supporting legalization. The strongest supporters are 18 to 29-year-olds. Seniors over 65 are the least supportive. Democrats and liberals poll the highest in favor of a new direction.

East Side state senator leads forum co-sponsored by many fellow Manhattan Democratic lawmakers

The two recent referendums confirmed these polling results, especially Colorado, where legalized marijuana outpolled President Barack Obama, who won the state, by 60,000 votes. Nadelmann said that the Colorado referendum returns suggest that legalization could become a factor in next year’s gubernatorial election.

Krueger opened a May 15 forum on marijuana policy at Baruch College by saying, “I did smoke and inhale marijuana 30 years ago, and I have no plans to do it again.” She emphasized that she does not advocate pot use and would no more encourage young people to indulge than do countries like the Netherlands and Portugal that have decriminalized the drug.

The Krueger proposal would allow the legal use of marijuana by those over 18. Sales would be supervised by the State Liquor Authority, and retail outlets for marijuana would be subjects to the same sorts of restrictions that currently apply to bars and liquor stores — including prohibitions on proximity to schools and churches. A $50 tax would be levied on an ounce of marijuana, and local governments would have the option to add an additional five percent surcharge or to forbid its sale.

Nadelmann stressed that marijuana legalization is not an invitation to “turn on and tune out,” and he acknowledged that a revival of the days of “wake and bake” — when 10 percent of high school students were daily users of marijuana — could doom the effort at reform. Under the Krueger bill, youngsters would face civil sanctions for using and selling marijuana.

Dr. Julie Holland, the former head of emergency medicine at Bellevue Hospital and author of popular books on pot and ecstasy, said that cannabis is a natural ingredient in plants and humans and its use as a medicine would be approved if the US government looked at the question rationally and without political considerations. The National Institute for Drug Abuse, a government agency, only supports research that will show the harms of marijuana. Holland acknowledged, however, that marijuana is associated with risk for some adolescents during the several years after 18 when their brains have fully grown and the synapses should be forming more efficient connections. For those youth susceptible to manic depression or schizophrenia, pot use can aggravate their problems during this period.

Joanne Naughton, a retired New York City police lieutenant and a member of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, or LEAP, strongly backed the Krueger legislation. Prohibition, she said, is “a failed policy.” At the same time, she reminded those attending the Baruch forum that police departments are quasi-military organizations in which policies are set at the top and carried out down a chain of command. The mayor and police commissioner are the ones responsible for the staggering rates of stop and frisk arrests for minor marijuana possession, not the officers on the streets.

A draft memorandum from Krueger noted that the NYPD made 50,300 marijuana-related arrests in 2010— which constituted 14 percent of all arrests that year. Those arrested were almost all people of color who received a criminal record for a first-time non-violent crime. This policing cost the city $75 million. Colorado estimates it would earn up to $22 million in taxes from its new law, and New York has a population nearly four times its size.

Alfred Carrasquillo, a community organizer for drug reform, spent time in jail for marijuana possession and failing drug tests for weed. He told the Baruch audience about his life in the “system” from 14 to 18. He attributed his fate to one factor: “racism.”

The forum Krueger convened was co-sponsored by State Senator Brad Hoylman, Assemblymen Richard Gottfried, Brian Kavanagh, Micah Kellner, and Dan Quart, and City Councilmembers Dan Garodnick and Jessica Lapin. Krueger was the only elected official who attended, and there is not yet a formal draft of her legislation.


Updated 5:17 pm, July 20, 2018
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Reader feedback

Perley J. Thibodeau says:
Liz Krueger should mind her own business. And her business shouldn't be stinking up the air with that foul smelling trash. There are many of us who would have to inhale it and we can't breathe as it is!
May 23, 2013, 9:08 pm
Perley J. Thibodeau says:
And furthermore. Save it for the New Amsterdam News. It has nothing to do with Gay Rights
May 23, 2013, 9:15 pm
Stuart Baanstra says:
...but Perley, I'm sure you don't begrudge Amsterdam allowing legalised cruising. Now, you can't have your cake and eat it too!
May 24, 2013, 2:53 am
Stuart Baanstra says:
Perl, perhaps you prefer a good drop of amyl!
May 24, 2013, 2:55 am
Perley J. Thibodeau says:
The New Amsterdam News is a small free throwaway newpspaper that is geared to stories related to West Harlam here in Manhattan. That is what Nathan Riley should be writing for!
May 24, 2013, 10:51 am
Perley J. Thibodeau says:
I'm on inhalers for emphesema from having smoked Chesterfield cigarettes when I was younger. I don't know what they contain but, thank God they help me to breathe again. I don't want to breathe secondhand smoke from this trash barrel burnings. Liz Kreuger should be put out of office for even thinking about making this severe health and limb hazard legal. She's obviously another Christine Queen who'll say and do anything to keep her cushy political position. Even if it means killing all of us to do it!
May 24, 2013, 10:59 am
nathan riley says:
Mr. Thibodea, Perhaps I should have mentioned the bill incorporates the current protections that apply to cigarette smoking so unless you permit pot smoking in your apartment you should avoid second hand pot smoke. You seem oblivious to the harms caused by the arrest, detention, and fingerprinting of people who are caught not smoking but having pot in their pockets. We shouldn't make other people worst to help with your problem.
May 24, 2013, 11:54 am
Perley J. Thibodeau says:
Mr. Riley: Anywhere in the building the smoke drifts into the various apartments. Mr. Riley: People being stopped and frisked for guns, and pots in their pocket is not a gay issue. Mr. Riley: I stopped reading the Gay City News when you were allowed to turn it into a chronicle of your own non gay beliefs. Mr. Riley: Please don't force me to stop reading the Gay City News again!
May 24, 2013, 3:01 pm
Perley J. Thibodeau says:
There were two good looking neighbors on my floor, one a Black married male with a young son, and a good looking Hispanic guy with a young daughter. They both thought they were doing themselves favors by smoking in the hall right in front of my apartment door. I lit into the both of them and told them that they were not only killing their two children and their wives, they were also killing themselves. I also told them that I'd be damned if they were also going to kill me. The young Black man quit, and his wife and child came back to him. The hunky Hispanic started sneaking smokes in the stairway with the exit door closed, but I could still smell it. My neighbor down the hall told me her niece on an upper floor called her in South Carolina before she came home, and she told me the Hispanic guy across the hall from her had been shot to death in East Harlem. When I verified it with the young Black guy who stopped smoking, he said yes, and that happened last January. So called pot manages to kill in many ways
May 24, 2013, 3:57 pm
Stuart Baanstra says:
Nathan, Perley doesn't really care about all that. It's a smokescreen. What he cares about is spelling his name wrong. It's "Thibodeau", with a "u" at the end.
May 26, 2013, 12:48 am
Stuart Baanstra says:
...and Perley, I thought your tale was going to have a happy ending. I thought the Hispanic guy might've started f*cking you!
May 26, 2013, 12:52 am
Stuart Baanstra says:
Sounds like West Harlam's doing more for queer people than Christopher Street can ever do in a fit of Sundays!
May 26, 2013, 12:58 am
Stuart Baanstra says:
What's more, Perley, I do hope your book's better reading than some of your comments!
May 26, 2013, 1:16 am
Perley J. Thibodeau says:
I can assure you that they are both equal. And if you can ever learn to read get the book and you'll know that I have done more for the New York City Gay Community than both East Harlem and West Harlem ever has. And that includes Nathan Riley. And I wasn't a dope fiend while doing it. Please don't reply to any future comments on my part, as I don't care to see them. Thank you Perley J. Thibodeau
May 26, 2013, 3:48 pm
Stuart Baanstra says:
Funny, isn't it Perley? It's ok to call a marijuana user a "dope fiend", but we don't like it when people call us gay slurs!
May 28, 2013, 12:55 am
Perley J. Thibodeau says:
And we don't like it when replying commenters aren't intelligent enough to state their version of defense for a subject but feel that they have to personally attack the original commenter who didn't Blow off-Is that gay enough for you?
May 28, 2013, 2:41 am
Stuart Baanstra says:
Dunno Perley? I mean, what's "gay"?
May 28, 2013, 3:39 am
marijuana dispensary says:
We should Legalize Pot and understand the benefits it provides.
May 10, 2014, 10:35 pm
Todd says:
Yes, they should legalize it in every state.
Dec. 26, 2014, 5:41 am

Comments closed.


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