By Kristin Toussaint
New York City subway delays got you stressed? Chill out and take a toke: legal marijuana may be the answer to fixing the city’s transit crisis, says Melissa Mark-Viverito.
Mark-Viverito, former speaker of the New York City Council and current candidate for public advocate, unveiled on Thursday her “Weed for Rails” plan, calling on state officials to legalize weed as a way to pay for subway repairs.
“Every day when I take the subway, all I can think is, ‘Please let the train be running. Please don’t stop in between stations. Please don’t skip my stop,’” she said at a press conference. “Yet our elected officials ignore the subway or fight with each other about it. Some don’t even use the MTA.”
This past summer, only 68 percent of New York City subway trains were on time. In August, all but one morning rush hour was free of any signal or mechanical issues. And those delays are more than just an annoyance — New York City subway delays cost nearly $400 million in lost business productivity and wages.
And this while the MTA is cash-strapped, facing up to $42 billion in outstanding debt. But an untapped revenue, according to Mark-Viverito, lies within legal marijuana.
In 2015, Colorado collected $135 million in legal marijuana tax revenue. In the first five days of retail marijuana in Massachusetts, the state’s two pot shops sold more than $2.2 million work of legal marijuana products.
“Given the size of New York’s population, the marijuana market here has the potential to yield $1.3 billion annually,” according to Mark-Viverito. “During the next legislative session, Weed for Rails lays out a plan for New York to legalize marijuana, put no less than 50 percent of tax revenue into a lock box specifically earmarked for transit improvements and to provide an opportunity for redress for communities that have been most adversely affected by marijuana arrests.”