In the ongoing race for New York City Mayor and other political offices, the refreshing clouds of pot-friendly rhetoric, not to mention angry commentary over the NYPD’s blatantly illegal stop and frisk tactics, are not limited to one party. In my last blog I took a look at the positions of seven Democratic candidates concerning marijuana laws, arrests and reform, and questions about the NYPD practices that have been the focus of federal rulings and outraged commentary from law enforcement, politicians and the public at large. Now, let’s check out how the Republican side of the race is shaping up.
Joseph Lhota (former MTA chairman and former Deputy Mayor of NYC) and John Catsimatidis (chairman and CEO of Gristedes Foods) are the front runners for the Republican nomination, being voted on Tuesday. They're polar opposites on marijuana, but not so far apart when it comes to their love affairs with the NYPD and all things law enforcement. While Lhota has admitted to smoking marijuana, Catsimatidis denies ever touching the stuff.
Update: Llota defeated Catsimatidis, 52% to 41%.
Ironically, the pot-friendly Lhota, who according to NORML, “Supports marijuana legalization, but believes that responsibility for acting on the issue falls to the governor and federal government,” is campaigning with his old boss, former NYC Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, who was considerably unfriendly towards marijuana. Lhota’s stance on outright legalization for adults has angered not only his opponents, but reefer-mad moms on Staten Island as well.
NORML reports that Catsimatidis is supportive of medical marijuana but not for any other use. In a campaign ad he attacks Lhota for wanting to "legalize dope."
“(Lhota) wants to legalize pot and marijuana, which is wrong,” the supermarket magnate told NY1. “You know, it's been proven. What are we going to do, make our kids a bunch of potheads?
Despite Lhota’s “let’s just legalize and get on with it," he's a strong supporter of the NYPD’s stop and frisk policy and law enforcement in general.
“The NYPD has not been racial profiling,” Lhota told the Wall Street Journal in a reaction to the federal Judge Shira A. Scheindlin’s August 12, 2013 ruling that stop and frisk was unconstitutional and that the NYPD was engaging in blatantly illegal racial profiling. “The reason why Ray (Kelly) is mad is the same reason I’m mad. How can you impugn the integrity of 35,000 NYPD officers?" So clearly Lhota supports the appeal of Scheindlin's decision."
Catsimatidis is also a fan of stop and frisk, though he was quoted by Observer’s Politicker saying it "needs some modification, but we can’t let it go away. New York City’s the safest city in the world, Commissioner Kelly has made it one of the safest cities in the word and we cannot give the streets back.” Catsimatidis then meandered into the realm of science fiction, suggesting that “the stop and frisk law is going to go away by itself,” at the New York Observer-sponsored event. “There’s new technology for the 21st century. It’s going to be a robot or a handgun that identifies if somebody is carrying a concealed weapon. And that’s going to happen, so the stop and frisk law over the next year or two will go away by itself."
So that’s the basic situation on the Republican side of the mayoral race in NYC. Legalize pot, don’t legalize pot, but by all means, stop and frisk is important and must remain a foundation upon which the city continues to combat dangerous criminals and marijuana smokers alike.
Whoever wins the Democratic nomination will most likely become the next mayor so this cat fight between Lhota and Catsimatidis over pot serves as little more than a sideshow. What's most interesting is that marijuana-law reform and policing have become significant issues in this high-profile campaign to lead the nation's largest city.