In a report provided to NY1, mayoral candidate John Liu suggested that New York legalize weed, license dispensaries, and use the money to halve tuition at CUNY. We at Runnin’ Scared think this is an inspired idea, and that Albany should get to work as soon as possible. This comes just two days after Attorney General Eric Holder gave a speech condemning our national approach to drug offenses. Here’s an interesting thought: Could it be that investing in education is a better way of addressing urban crime and poverty?
It’s hard to see the downside in Liu’s proposal. The state gets some much-needed cash to tamp down soaring education costs. Not so long ago, CUNY’s tuition was exactly $0. Nowadays fees run closer to $6,000 a year for full-time students, and that number only increases year over year.
And don’t forget the bonus of not having to pay for enforcement. Estimates put the cost of enforcing zero-tolerance drug laws at near $14 billion nationally. New York legislators should be tripping over themselves for a piece of that action.
Legalizing and regulating weed would also help to minimize casualties in this war on drugs that we should have forgotten in the 1980s. Under Bloomberg’s tenure alone, 460,000 people were arrested on misdemeanor drug charges. That’s 460,000 more lives that are inextricably tied to the criminal justice system.
And Liu’s proposal is in line with the growing national chorus over the prison system gobbling up black and Latino men for no other reason than for being caught with a dime-bag on them.
Holder’s recent announcement urging that prosecutors use a little more sense in chasing down non-violent drug offenders is the crest of a new way of thinking about drug enforcement: Harsh deterrents make the problem worse. Why not funnel money away from criminal enterprises and into someone’s college education? Sounds like a good idea to me.