It was back in January in frigid Buffalo that former Erie County Executive Joel Giambra called for the “toughest, tightest regulated” legalized marijuana bill in the United States as a way to raise billions of dollars in tax revenue to fix New York State’s crumbling infrastructure.
Giambra called taxing legalized recreational marijuana “a much more appropriate way to solve our problems than raising new taxes,” the first gubernatorial candidate this year to propose legalizing cannabis. But within days, Gov. Andrew Cuomo proposed in his budget plan a study to look at the impact of legalizing marijuana for recreational use. The tidal wave had begun.
On Saturday (May 5), Giambra, who is seeking the support of the Reform Party in his bid to replace Cuomo, will lead a group of supporters in New York City’s annual cannabis parade down Broadway to Union Square Park where he will be among the speakers addressing the gathering.
“It is time we join with the other states that have moved to legalize marijuana and take advantage of the enormous opportunity we have to raise money to deal with our very serious infrastructure problems, including the subway system in New York City,” said Giambra. “We don’t need any more studies. We need to act, and act now, for the benefit of the people of the great state we call home.”
The annual event is dedicated to ending cannabis prohibition, stopping racially motivated arrests, and improving the state’s medical marijuana program. In March, Giambra released results of a detailed financial analysis, saying it showed that marijuana tax revenues could equal $500 million a year.
“That’s about half a billion dollars a year that’s making its way through the underground black market economy which to me makes no sense,” Giambra said at the March press conference, talking about how New York is losing funds that could be put to use helping the state address its very serious problems maintaining roads, bridges, and subways.
“I’ll be marching in the rally with several of my supporters and will address the crowd at Union Square Park as a sign of my commitment to this effort,” said Giambra. “This state needs to finally join the nine other states that have recognized the great benefits that can be achieved by legalization and begin the road down that path sooner rather than later. Let’s hope this year’s rally will help stimulate the momentum needed to get our lawmakers to act.”
Giambra, who grew up in a Buffalo housing project, was one of the city’s youngest council members and served for nine years as Buffalo comptroller. He also won two terms as Erie County executive, running as a Republican in a heavily Democratic stronghold.
“I wasn’t born with a silver spoon in my mouth and I have worked very hard to try and help others through my political efforts,” said Giambra. “I believe we can help a broad section of our population by legalizing recreational marijuana, both medically and financially, and that’s why I’m going to be there Saturday adding my support to the effort.”
Joel Giambra first called for an end to the Drug War as County Executive in 2006 — long before it was politically popular to do so.