International Cannabis Business Conference

Marijuana and Stop and Frisk Key Issues in New York's Mayoral Race

There is definitely a smoky, heady aspect to the ongoing mayoral race in New York City right now. With elections for not only mayor but also Comptroller, Public Advocate, NYC Council members and Borough Presidents coming Nov. 5, and nominations for all offices this Tuesday, Sept. 10, candidates are vying with each other to show not just how strongly opposed they are to such unconstitutional and discriminatory practices as the NYPD’s stop and frisk policies, but more, how pot friendly they are compared to each other. The days of “I didn’t inhale” have in large part disappeared within a thick cloud of pungent smoke. Here's our look at seven Democratic candidates:

Bill de Blasio, City Advocate

Bill de Blasio
Bill de Blasio: ’I would instruct the NYPD right now (to) stop arresting people for displays of small amounts. It’s ridiculous.’

“I want a law passed in Albany that would end it and I would instruct the NYPD right now (to) stop arresting people for displays of small amounts. It's ridiculous. It doesn't make us safer,” says candidate Bill de Blasio about the city's marijuana arrests policy. The candidate, currently leading in polls with as much as 43%, admits to smoking marijuana in college but not since. Despite not imbibing himself, he does say that, among other points, “In New York City, nearly 50,000 people were arrested last year for marijuana possession. Low-level marijuana possession arrests have disastrous consequences for individuals and their families. These arrests limit one’s ability to qualify for student financial aid and undermine one’s ability to find stable housing and good jobs. What’s more, recent studies demonstrate clear racial bias in arrests for low-level possession, with African-Americans arrested four times more frequently as whites - despite roughly equal usage rates. This policy is unjust and wrong.”

“As NYC Public Advocate, I released a report that showed that stop and frisks of African Americans in 2012 were barely half as likely to yield a weapon as those of white New Yorkers - and a third less likely to yield contraband,” de Blasio told XXL. “Despite this evidence, the vast majority of those stopped are young Black and Latino men. This stark disparity in stops shows that racial profiling is alive and well. There’s absolutely no justification for tens of thousands of young men of color being stopped repeatedly without cause.” de Blasio notes there are three important changes he would immediately implement if he's elected: “As Mayor, I would replace Commissioner Ray Kelly, create an independent Inspector General to monitor the NYPD and enforce a strong racial profiling ban.” However, de Blasio does not think stop and frisk should be completely ended.

Bill Thompson, former City Comptroller

Bill Thompson
Bill Thompson has lagged behind the other candidates when it come to the city’s controversial stop and frisk policy.

The only black candidate in this year’s race for mayor, back in May Bill Thompson came out in strong support of the NYPD’s “stop and frisk” tactics. As the New York Times put it then, “…Mr. Thompson is now bucking the left wing of his party on three fronts: by pledging to keep stop and frisk operations as a crime-fighting tool; proposing an inspector general who operates within the Police Department, rather than outside of it ('I don’t want to create additional bureaucracy,' he said); and opposing a City Council bill that would open state courts to legal claims of racial profiling by the Police Department (he said it would divert precious city finances to endless legal bills).”  Then in July, he gave a speech comparing the “stop and frisk” policy to institutionalized profiling, in the same manner as that of George Zimmerman’s trailing, then killing, Trayvon Martin, so perhaps Thompson has realized he could be strongly alienating a large proportion of his possible voter base.

Thompson supports decriminalization of small amounts of marijuana for personal use, and for medical use, but opposes legalization. He's used marijuana.

Christine Quinn, City Council Speaker

Christine Quinn
When asked if Quinn has used marijuana, her spokesperson said, ’She has. And she supports medical marijuana.’

"'I would not get rid of the stop-and-frisk practice, but it has gotten out of control,’ Christine Quinn said Tuesday during an appearance on Morning Joe. ‘We’ve had, at its peak, 700,000 stops. Single digits of those lead to arrests or guns or any significant contraband. Clearly that was not being done in a constitutionally sound way,’” reports MSNBC.

When asked in a survey of candidates by the New York Observer’s Politicker blog whether Quinn has smoked marijuana, her campaign spokesperson Mike Morey stated, “She has. And she supports medical marijuana.”

In July, Quinn called on Democratic opponent Anthony Weiner to apologize for comments he made in a speech at Staten Island’s First Central Baptist Church, when he likened the NYPD stop and frisk program to what was happening in Nazi Germany (see below).

Anthony Weiner, former NYC Councilman and former U.S. Representative

Anthony Weiner
Anthony Weiner: ’End arrests for small amounts of marijuana. These arrests serve no purpose.’

In reference to the NYPD’s stop and frisk policy, Anthony Weiner has said, “And the mayor stood up and said, ‘Wait a minute, statistically this’ and ‘statistically that.’ Well, you can have 100% statistical reductions in crime if you stop everybody,” reported the New York Post. “You could have 1938 Germany, because everyone has to show their papers.” Weiner’s campaign spokesperson Barbara Morgan later qualified Weiner’s remarks. “As Anthony has said, the context of the reference was the argument made by some that stopping innocent citizens was an acceptable cost for public safety. He was absolutely not equating 1938 Nazi Germany to New York City.”

“End arrests for small amounts of marijuana. These arrests serve no purpose; they worsen NYPD/community relations, create criminal records that ruin lives, and waste the time and energy of officers who should be fighting serious crime,” writes the controversial, some say disgraced former Congressman in his position paper. “I can tell my police officers and my police commissioner, that's not a priority for my administration,” Weiner added during a press conference, saying that arrests “damage lives, and very rarely do you catch a master criminal that way.”

Weiner has not responded to questions about his marijuana use.

John C. Liu, City Comptroller

John Liu
John Liu favors taxing and regulating marijuana and says, ’It’s time to put an end to stop and frisk once and for all.’

“It’s time to recognize that New York City’s misguided war on marijuana has failed,” John Liu recently wrote in an editorial for The Villager. “Instead of spending millions on low-level drug prosecutions that disproportionately affect minorities, why not instead legalize, regulate and tax the city’s $1.65 billion marijuana market? A comprehensive report released by my office this month, ‘Regulating and Taxing Marijuana: The Fiscal Impact on NYC,’ shows that legalizing, regulating and taxing marijuana could generate more than $400 million annually for the city, money that could be used to cut CUNY tuition in half for New York City residents. Instead of sending kids to the courthouse, let’s send them to college.”

“Blacks and Hispanics make up 45% of marijuana users in New York City and yet they make up 86% of marijuana arrests,” the Asian-American Liu told the Wall Street Journal. “Whites, on the other hand, make up 42% of users but only 11% of arrests.”

About federal Judge Shira A. Scheindlin’s August 12, 2013 ruling that the NYPD stop and frisk policy was unconstitutional and illegal, then ordering it ended, Lui posted on his website: “Today’s ruling by Judge Scheindlin declaring that police have overstepped their authority highlights the enormous flaws in the NYPD’s stop and frisk tactic, which has served to undermine trust between communities and law enforcement. The judge’s call for reforms must be heeded, and - longer term - the tactic should be abolished. It’s time to put an end to stop and frisk once and for all.”

Liu has never used marijuana.

Sal Albanese, former NYC Councilman

Sal Albanese
Sal Albanese ’would like to divert the money currently spent on anti-marijuana efforts into spending on real education.’

Sal Albanese, a former City Councilman from Southwestern Brooklyn, first won election in 1982, then four more times through 1997, when he unsuccessfully ran for mayor.

“Sal fully supports decriminalization, but feels that’s just a step. What he really wants is full legalization, regulation and taxation in a system set up along the lines of what’s happening in Colorado and Washington today,” campaign spokesperson Todd Brogan tells CelebStoner. “As a councilman, Sal was always very supportive of strong policing. He simply feels that current marijuana policies end up targeting mainly minority youth, it doesn’t work, hurting the future chances for work and education for far too many young people, with all the millions spent with no signs of slowing the trade in or use of marijuana. He would like to divert the money currently spent on anti-marijuana efforts into spending on real education, funding school programs, because he’s more worried about poverty and the associated ills that come from that."

On his website, in the "Drug Reform" section, Albanese states: "Stop and frisk is a valuable police tool, but its application should be amended to ensure that no one is stopped in violation of the Constitution."

Brogan insists Albanese has "never, not once in his life" used marijuana. "He’s just not interested, but he supports legalization for those who want to use it.”

Randy Credico

Randy Credico
Randy Credico would fire Police Chief Ray Kelly, end stop and frisk, and legalize marijuana.

Then there’s radical outsider Randy Credico, a longtime performer, comedian, political activist and outspoken critic on many social injustices. Here’s what Phil Smith has to say about Credico’s positions concerning drug and related criminal justice policies:

"But just beneath banksters and taxes is a vow to begin reining in the NYPD by firing Police Commissioner Ray Kelly (to be replaced with Frank Serpico) and abolishing the NYPD’s unconstitutional policies of racial profiling, stop and frisk, domestic spying, entrapment, and its infamous (albeit unadmitted) quota system."

Central to that policing reform plank, Credico says, is reclassifying the smoking and carrying of marijuana as no longer an arrestible offense. He also vows to fire any officer who lies or perjures himself on the stand, and to bar the use of “no-knock” warrants and stun grenades “except in the case of legitimate terrorist attack.”

Credico, who smokes marijuana, wants to replace the city’s Special Narcotics Office with a Harm Reduction Office, whose leadership he would offer to Drug Policy Alliance head Ethan Nadelmann. He also vows to shut down the Rikers Island prison and turn it into a treatment center and education facility with a state of the art library, and nominate law professor Michelle Alexander, author of The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness, to run it.

The Republican candidates will be examined next. Stay tuned.

Preston Peet

Preston Peet

Editor of "Under the Influence, the Disinformation Guide to Drugs," former editor of DrugWar.com, and writer of numerous articles around the globe.