Pubdate: Mon, 15 Jan 2018
Source: Buffalo News (NY)
Copyright: 2018 The Buffalo News
Author: Robert J. McCarthy


Just a few weeks ago, Joel A. Giambra the lobbyist was working the
State Capitol's hallways advocating the legalization of marijuana.

Now he works a different Capitol angle as a Republican hopeful for
governor, proposing that legalized and tightly regulated marijuana
sales represent the best way to address the state's massive
infrastructure and mass transit needs.

"I'm saying raising taxes is not the solution," he said during a
Monday press conference on Niagara Street. "My job would be to
convince the Legislature that this is the most appropriate way to deal
with this particular problem of infrastructure."

The former Erie County executive -- who last week declared his
intention to seek the GOP nomination for governor -- has been
promising throughout his young campaign that he will propose new ways
of addressing Albany issues. He began touting the legal marijuana
approach last week while making the rounds in New York City and
calling for major reforms within its Metropolitan Transportation
Authority as a way to deal with deteriorating bus and rail service.

He says the same revenues dedicated to downstate transit could be used
for upstate roads, bridges and mass transit.

And while he would not provide details he says are forthcoming,
Giambra basically proposes that a regulated marijuana industry would
generate significant revenues by elevating its sale from an
"underground economy" into a legal marketplace. He would not elaborate
on whether government would directly oversee the sales or get revenue
in some other manner. But he said neighboring states and Ontario are
already moving toward legalization and that New York should prepare
for the eventuality, even if the Trump administration looks to tighten
enforcement of marijuana laws.

"I'm hoping Washington is going to get real on this," he said.
"Marijuana should not be a Class 1 drug alongside heroin and cocaine."

Giambra, who so far is joined by Assembly Minority Leader Brian M.
Kolb of Canandaigua as a declared candidate, said he expects Gov.
Andrew M. Cuomo and legislative Democrats to propose new taxes as a
way of battling a multibillion dollar deficit. He said Cuomo may seek
taxes on New York City commuters while Mayor Bill de Blasio has talked
about taxes on the city's wealthy as a way of raising some of the
billions of dollars needed for the downstate transit system's capital

His proposal taps a revenue stream that right now is operating in the
shadows, he said.

"This is going to create jobs and opportunity," he told reporters.
"Right now the jobs and opportunity are in the underground economy,
and that's wrong."

Giambra acknowledged that until recently he had worked as a
professional lobbyist with former Sen. Alfonse M. D'Amato's Park
Strategies firm on behalf of marijuana legalization. He said Monday he
sees no conflict in his new role.

"As a lobbyist I took on the cause because I believed in it," he said.
"I still believe in it today. I'm not getting paid for it now."
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