RELEASE: Melissa Mark-Viverito Launches “Weed for Rails” to Fix Broken Subway System


NEW YORK — Melissa Mark-Viverito today unveiled “Weed for Rails,” her 4-point plan to legalize marijuana and use the tax revenue to fix the MTA’s broken subway system. Mark-Viverito, former Speaker of the New York City Council and candidate for Public Advocate, launched her plan outside the 4/5/6 train by the foot of the Brooklyn Bridge, calling for the legalization of marijuana, investing the revenue in the MTA, and legalizing marijuana in a manner that provides redress for the many thousands of people who have been arrested for using marijuana recreationally.

“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. We deserve leaders who tells them the truth. And the truth is the city’s transportation system is broken — and the governor and the Mayor won’t stop pointing fingers for long enough to fix it. That’s why today, I’m launching my plan to legalize marijuana and use the revenue to fix the subway. It’s called Weed for Rails,” said Public Advocate candidate Melissa Mark-Viverito. “Given the size of New York’s population, the marijuana market here could yield $1.3 billion a year that we can invest in our crumbling MTA. And it’s far past time to legalize marijuana—because  for years, white New Yorkers have smoked marijuana with no repercussions, while black and brown New Yorkers are arrested.”

Mark-Viverito called for marijuana legalization in 2014, becoming one of the first elected officials in the city to do so. Mark-Viverito first put forward the idea of investing marijuana revenue in the MTA in October 2018 during a speech on the economic implications of marijuana.

“Weed for Rails”

Melissa Mark-Viverito’s 4-Point Marijuana Legalization Action Plan

New Yorkers are facing a transit crisis—and this city is in dire need of a sustainable solution to fix the Metropolitan Transportation Authority.

In 2014, then-Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito called for the legalization of marijuana, becoming one of the first elected officials in New York State to do so.

Today, Mark-Viverito is proposing a 4-point action plan to advocate for the legalization of marijuana in a manner that is: fair and equitable; uses no less than 50% of the tax revenue from marijuana sales to help fund transit improvements for City residents; and provides opportunities for redress for the communities that have been most adversely affected by marijuana arrests and incarceration. The plan also provides for significant oversight of existing and future City policies relating to marijuana.

 1.  Advocate for Legalizing the Sale of Marijuana

California, Colorado, and Washington all have marijuana markets exceeding $1 billion since legalization, with California at more than $2.75 billion. New York might expect even greater sales given our size, available financing, and status as a leading destination for tourists from all over the world.

As Public Advocate, Mark-Viverito will ensure that the Governor and the State Legislature follow through on their campaign promises to legalize the sale of marijuana for recreational use by working with advocacy groups to push for State legislation that legalizes the sale of marijuana in a manner that is fair and equitable and is dedicated to public transit improvements.

Immediately upon taking office, the Public Advocate will submit a memorandum of support for marijuana’s legalization and will work to build a grassroots movement to demand that the Governor and State Legislature pass legalization legislation in the 2019 legislative session.

2.  Invest Marijuana Revenue in Subway Capital Program

New York City’s subway now has the worst on-time performance of any major rapid transit system in the world. The subway system is crumbling because of decades of disinvestment. Tax revenue from marijuana sales can be used to help improve service by funding desperately needed repairs and capital projects.

There will be ample tax revenues available. In 2015, Colorado collected more than $135 million in taxes and fees on medical and recreational marijuana. Sales in the state totaled over $996 million. One study estimated the likely California market for recreational marijuana between $15 and $20 billion in annual sales revenue. Given the size of New York’s population and considering the experiences of other jurisdictions, the marijuana market here has the potential to yield $1.3 billion annually in State and City tax revenue.

As Public Advocate, Mark-Viverito will aggressively advocate for the State to use that estimated $1.3 billion in tax revenue from the legalization of marijuana to pay for the repair of the subways and capital improvements. Currently, the MTA has a capital program of $15.2 billion for the subways. The marijuana tax revenue, if invested in transit, will assist struggling New Yorkers by addressing their transportation needs, and will also help to minimize potential fare hikes.

Mark-Viverito will also advocate for a “lockbox” provision in state legalization legislation to ensure that no less than half of marijuana tax revenues are dedicated to public transit.

Mark-Viverito strongly supports instituting a congestion pricing plan, which she voted for in 2008, and investing associated revenues in public transit. However, given the timeline needed to implement such a plan, it is unlikely to produce revenue in the short-term. In contrast, the full legalization or marijuana can be accomplished immediately.

3.  Support Policy Approaches that Address Historical Wrongs

In addition to funding the MTA, Mark-Viverito supports legalizing marijuana in a manner that provides redress for the many thousands of people who have been arrested for using marijuana recreationally. Any bill that legalizes marijuana must include the following provisions:

Expunge criminal convictions of the thousands arrested for using the drug recreationally.

Provide priority to women and minority-run businesses and nonviolent offenders who have been convicted on marijuana charges when issuing licenses to grow and sell marijuana.

Establish a fund to support non-profits that are willing to teach business management to low-income communities.

4.  Programmatic Oversight

As Public Advocate, Mark-Viverito will convene public oversight hearings on issues relating to marijuana enforcement. Such oversight will include an in-depth examination of, and reporting on, implementation of NYPD policy favoring ticketing as opposed to arrests for marijuana use.