During the heated race for Brooklyn District Attorney, Kenneth P. Thompson said if he was elected, he would make it a policy to decline to prosecute marijuana-related arrests. Mr. Thompson won the election and now appears to be keeping his word. The New York City Police Department appears to be apoplectic. Their position is that the laws of the state must be uniformly enforced. To be fair, it’s not easy to have an entity in charge of policing all five boroughs in which the specific boroughs have different sets of rules. Despite my sympathy for their position, however, I applaud Mr. Thompson’s decision and I wish other District Attorneys would take similar approaches to not only marijuana laws, but to other laws as well.
As a New Yorker, I find federalism frustrating. As most people know, Federalism is a system of governance in which power is divided between a large federal government and small regional governments. Here, Brooklyn is the biggest borough in New York City by population; New York City is the biggest city in New York state by population; and New York state is one of the biggest states in America by population. Not only does New York City have an immense population, but New York City has a lot of money. Money that gets funneled to Albany through taxes paid by city dwellers so other regions of the state can prosper despite the fact that they generate less money. New York City gives a lot more money to the state than it gets back. This is true on a national level as well in that New Yorkers spend more on federal taxes than they receive in federal benefits. The phenomenon of bigger cities and states paying more taxes than they receive in benefits is true across the nation. What’s comical is that most of these cities tend to be liberal whereas the parts of the country that receives more benefits than they pay in taxes tends to be conservative. Yet, according to morons like Sarah Pail, the liberals are the takers. I digress. The reason this is frustrating though is because the government is set up so that fewer people have a disproportionately larger say in our political system. So for example, even though people in states like California, Colorado, and Washington want the federal government to stop arresting its citizens for a drug they think should be legal, they can’t because states like small states by population like Wyoming and Idaho won’t support the legalization of marijuana. Another example of this phenomenon occurred when Michael Bloomberg tried to get Albany to pass “congestion pricing.” This was the idea that if you wanted to drive into New York City, you had to pay an extra tax. This failed because non-New York City residents didn’t want to have to pay to enter a city they don’t live in. And who cares what the people of the actual city want? The same happened with marijuana. Despite the fact that all 5 District Attorneys of New York City all went on record saying that marijuana should be decriminalized, Albany failed to pass the requisite law because of politicians from other parts of the state.
So now we find ourselves in a situation where one particular District Attorney campaigned on the fact that he will not enforce a particular law if elected. And now that he was elected, he is keeping his promise. Why is this good? Because the decision as to who a District Attorney will be in a New York county is one of the few decisions the county gets to make without outside interference. So if Brooklynites wanted to elect someone who will enforce their will and not the will of New York City, Albany, or Washington, DC, I applaud them. It is there right. I only wish other District Attorneys had similar courage.
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