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Get ready for a NYC reeking of weed and crawling with potheads

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Get ready for a NYC reeking of weed and crawling with potheads

It’s reefer madness all across Gotham, following the state Legislature’s legalization of marijuana.

Potheads light up with abandon. The NYPD has instructed officers to ignore the possession, “burning” and even the open sale of up to three ounces of weed.

Technically, minors aren’t permitted to have access to the herb, and you’re not allowed to smoke up anywhere cigarettes are banned. Yet judging by the dank smell on every block, park bench and subway car, any restrictions on pot have gone up in smoke. 

Some New Yorkers may recall a time not too long ago when even the sale of “bongs” and other pot paraphernalia was essentially banned in the Big Apple. Now “smoke shops” are everywhere. The fruits of progress, don’t you know? 

It’s common for sophisticated people to observe that prohibition never works — just look at, well, Prohibition. Banning booze was a huge failure, right? Actually, no. Whether it was ultimately a good idea or not, the passage of the Volstead Act did, in fact, drive down consumption of alcohol to about 70 percent of pre-Prohibition levels. 

People sneered at former Mayor Mike Bloomberg’s “nanny-state” impulses, as when he tried to ban the sale of large sugary drinks. They predicted doom for the nightlife industry when he pushed through a ban on smoking in all indoor accommodations in 2003. But hundreds of thousands of bartenders, waiters and nonsmoking patrons have been happy to breathe clean air while they work, eat and drink — and not to have to wash their hair and clothes of cigarette stink after a night out. 

Plus, Bloomberg’s bluenose approach has saved lives. The adult smoking rate in New York City fell to 12 percent in 2019, from 22 percent in 2002 — faster than the national decline. The incidence of lung cancer has fallen substantially, too.  

It isn’t widely noted, but in 2011, New York City also banned smoking in all parks and beaches. That goes for pot, too, though you wouldn’t know it strolling around Manhattan parks lately: Last week, I saw teenaged skateboarders in Washington Square pulling on a huge bong. Police ignored the obvious violation, and it’s foolish to expect much in the way of enforcement going forward in our climate of the decriminalization of crime. 

But the new liberalization will certainly present big challenges. Marijuana is known to be detrimental for brain development in younger people and can hasten and worsen the onset of serious mental illness.  

Despite its reputation as a drug for gentle, zonked-out hippies, marijuana use is strongly associated with the likelihood to commit weapons offenses, according to the National Institutes for Heath. A major study by Oxford researchers found that marijuana use boosts the odds of violent behavior among people with psychotic disorders. 

The city is already beset with thousands of untreated mentally ill individuals — is it so wise to be cultivating more? 

Proponents of pot have long insisted that the weed is wondrous medicine and can treat or cure everything from nausea to epilepsy to lupus to insomnia, with zero side effects or risk of overdose. But does it make sense that a powerful medicine could also be harmless? Sounds like a snake-oil pitch.  

Advocates laugh at the idea that marijuana is a “gateway drug.” But find one serious drug addict who didn’t start out on pot. I’ll wait. 

And the social-justice implications of legalizing pot are seriously overstated. It is a fond myth that the “drug war” has locked up thousands of people for smoking a joint; in fact, the city jail system has typically held an average of one person a day on pot-possession charges. 

Judging by the experience of other states that have legalized it, the expected revenues from pot may not be as rich as anticipated. In California, licensed cultivators and retailers have found themselves competing with dealers who saw no reason to go legit — and whose untaxed product is cheaper than the legal stuff. As a result, the legitimate weed sellers have demanded that the police crack down against the black marketers in a new, unexpected twist on the drug war. 

Progressive leaders have finally got their wish for legal pot in New York. Now it’s left to New Yorkers to deal with the mess. 

Seth Barron is managing editor of The American Mind.

Twitter: @SethBarronNYC

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Opinion

Expert rates the winners and losers of first televised NYC mayoral debate

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Expert rates the winners and losers of first televised NYC mayoral debate

Last night’s mayoral debate was, if nothing else, a good forum for some of​ ​the candidates who many voters haven’t had much chance to get to know.

That​ ​meant it was particularly good for Kathryn Garcia and Ray McGuire who were​ ​able to get across the who, what, where and how of where exactly they stand.

Maya Wiley, wasn’t at her finest. As a TV veteran, she should have known​ ​better and instead broke all the rules by acting as though the rules didn’t apply to her. She ran over her time, wouldn’t stop talking when the moderator asked her to, and interrupted other speakers and overall showed a breathtaking lack of respect for the process.

Scott S​​tringer? He was classic Scott Stringer, the guy who always seems to​ ​need a carton of Red Bull and who, aside from a couple of good lines, was as​ ​unemotional as your tax attorney. That’s great for the city’s fiscal watchdog, but I​ ​just don’t think this comes across well when the public is looking for a strong​ ​presence.

And there was Andrew Yang once again trying the election trick that​ ​knocked him out of the presidential race: The offer of a thousand bucks to​ ​everyone who believes that Andrew Yang will give them a thousand bucks. 

Again.​ ​Been there, done that. 

He was particularly weak in answering to the fact that he’s never even voted for a mayoral candidate or a citywide referendum.

Eric Adams owned, as expected, the public safety issue. His lack of energy​ ​however was somewhat surprising for the candidate who knows the streets, the​ ​racial situation and the problems with the police so well.​ ​

The couple of exchanges he with Wiley and Dianne Morales were too polite,​ ​too softball, when he should have given as good as he got.​ ​

And speaking of Morales, she definitely has some important ideas on racial​ ​inequality and homelessness, but I’m not convinced that she came close to​ ​explaining how we’re supposed to pay for it with a city heading to an estimated​ ​$3 billion budget deficit in 2022-23.

Shaun Donovan, who seemed to start every sentence with “When I was in​ ​the Obama administration…” or “When I was City Housing Commissioner,” was​ ​unnecessarily repetitive. OK, we got the idea, but repetition doesn’t make for an​ ​interesting or even informative debate tactic.​ 

​Bottom line? As in most first debates, nothing much will have changed. No​ ​moments that blew anyone away. Probably the undecided needles won’t move too much.

Next time? Fire the media trainers and be yourselves, because what we saw sure won’t be what we get.

Sid Davidoff is Founding Partner of Davidoff Hutcher & Citron LLP, a New York-based law and public affairs firm, and former aide to New York Mayor John Lindsay.

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Saturday’s Times Square shooting may mark a crossroads for NYC

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Saturday’s Times Square shooting may mark a crossroads for NYC

Last year in New York City, murders rose 45 percent and shootings 97 percent, numbers that have continued to rise in 2021. But New Yorkers don’t need statistics to understand that the city’s descent into chaos is accelerating. Saturday’s brazen shooting in Times Square — in which three innocent bystanders were shot, including a 4-year-old girl — may well mark a crossroads.

During New York’s bad old days, the Crossroads of the World and its pornographic theaters attracted “an unsavory and increasingly criminal crowd,” as William J. Stern, former head of the Urban Development Corporation, observed. “By the eighties, things got worse still, with an amazing 2,300 crimes on the block in 1984 alone, 20 percent of them serious felonies such as murder or rape,” he noted. Times Square’s situation suggested a city spinning out of control.

The condition of Times Square today similarly reveals the city’s social, moral and civic health. The president of the Times Square Alliance, Tim Tompkins, understands this. In 2016, he explained that “the area then — and has always been — representative of what was working or not working in New York City as a whole. . . . Throughout New York City, crime was a huge issue that was making people stay away, and . . . that overshadowed everything else.” Thus, he reasoned, “Times Square was this symbol of whether the government had either the will or the capacity to make a city safe.”

Mayor Rudy Giuliani’s commitment to tame Times Square helped Gotham restore civic normalcy. Giuliani brought Disney in to take over and renovate the New Amsterdam Theatre, which “led to the resurrection of 42nd Street and Times Square,” in the words of The New York Times.

Giuliani also targeted smut shops for legal assault in court and had his NYPD proactively arrest quality-of-life offenders: drug dealers, junkies, pimps, prostitutes, hustlers, thieves and con artists. What followed was the revitalization of Times Square — and New York’s rebirth as the safest big city in America.

New York’s reversal of fortune is no accident. Mayor Bill de Blasio cites the pandemic and closed schools as excuses for the rise in violent crime. He conveniently overlooks four culprits: catch-and-release bail reform; the abandoning of broken-windows policing; the elimination of plainclothes anti-crime units that spent their nights hunting illegal gun carriers; and the movement to “defund” the police.

Proactive police officers have no incentive to respond to non-emergency crimes when the mayor has told them to stand down, when they know perps will be swiftly released and when they worry their faces could be the next ones plastered on screens across the country if an arrest goes wrong.

Which brings us back to Saturday’s shooting. We should be grateful for the heroic police officers who responded, including Alyssa Vogel, who ran nonstop with the 4-year-old victim to the ambulance. The alleged shooter was identified as Farrakhan Muhammad, a 31-year-old CD-pushing pest with a long arrest record who intended to shoot his brother.

When New York City had a quality-of-life policing regime, CD peddlers who crossed the line from protected First Amendment activity to misdemeanor “aggravated harassment” were routinely arrested and removed from Times Square and possibly locked away. But we live in a different city now.

In 1975, the Council for Public Safety issued an infamous pamphlet titled: “Welcome to Fear City: A Survival Guide for Visitors to the City of New York.” It advised tourists, among other things, to stay off the streets after 6 p.m., protect their property and safeguard their handbags and “never ride the subway for any reason whatsoever.”

The city is still better off than in 1975 — but that’s far from the standard to which a great city should aspire. De Blasio has assured New Yorkers that “we’re not going back to the bad old days when there was so much violence in this city.” Three innocents shot in Times Square over the weekend might have a different view.

Craig Trainor is a criminal-defense and civil-rights attorney in New York. Adapted from City Journal.

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Opinion

President Biden’s charter-school dis

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President Biden’s charter-school dis

In a fresh sign of teacher-union sway over President Joe Biden, this is the first Charter School Week in 30 years not to be marked by a presidential proclamation.

That’s right: Every president going back to Bill Clinton saw fit to recognize these alternative public schools and the work they do in uplifting poor and minority students across the nation. And Biden’s old boss, President Barack Obama, was instrumental in supporting the growth of charters, even shooting down bogus teacher-union attacks.

Charters are laboratories of innovation that operate largely without union interference; their successes regularly show up the failure of union-dominated schools, especially in high-poverty minority neighborhoods. That’s why teachers’ unions despise them. But what’s Biden’s excuse?

Well, American Federation of Teachers leader Randi Weingarten and National Education Association head Becky Pringle were among the Biden administration’s first and most frequent White House guests. And pressure from the top is the only explanation for how Weingarten was able to literally dictate language to the Centers for Disease Control for its “scientific” guidance on school reopenings.

In short, this president stands with his teacher-union allies against the principles of Barack Obama, the best interests of children and even good public-health policy amid the pandemic.

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