I didn’t know what to expect when interviewing New York City mayoral candidate Mike Tolkin. Some third-party candidates can be very eccentric and New York has had it’s fair share; it is home to the Rent is Too Damn High Party after all. After talking to Mr. Tolkin, I can attest that this cannabis legalization supporter, who is currently living as a homeless person to publicize income inequality, is an extremely smart and thoughtful candidate that is running for office for the right reasons.
Tolkin has received quite a bit of media attention by spending a week homeless in front of New York City Hall. He has relied upon the kindness of others and he has been pleasantly surprised by the support that he has received from well-wishers passing by. Tolkin will end his homeless occupation on Tuesday, October 10th.
Below is the conversation I had with the the third-party NYC mayoral candidate.
Anthony Johnson: Why go homeless?
Mike Tolkin: Homelessness is one of our biggest challenges. The fact that New York City has 60,000 homeless people speaks to a larger epidemic of economic injustice. People are being displaced with rising rent costs. Looking at the economy, 5 to 10 years from now, our economy will drastically change. Automation and e-commerce are hurting small businesses. We need to be investing and preparing our kids for the economy of the future. We need to put in place policies like a universal income. I went homeless before, without any media attention, to learn about what people are going through and to learn about solutions.
I want people to see the human side of homelessness. Many times, people look the other away, because it is too painful to see people living on the streets. There will be more political action if people have sympathy. We need, for starters, more rehabilitation centers and mental health services.
Do you see a relation between the stigma of drug use, the lack of drug treatment services, and the homeless population?
100%. There are a variety of reasons why people end up on the streets. People exhaust every single option to avoid becoming homeless, calling up every friend and family member. Substance abuse problems, mental health issues, PTSD, LGBT runaways, are just some of the reasons people become homeless. My proposal, NYC Life, would provide safe housing, job training and mental health and substance abuse treatment. Today’s shelters are unsafe, a big reason why people choose to be on the streets instead of in shelters.
What about marijuana legalization?
I am 100% in support of marijuana legalization. I was nervous to be public about this at first, but I decided to be authentic. I don’t drink, but I’ve vaped cannabis and it has helped improve my life. People have access to marijuana already, so we can make money off of the market, or we can waste money on arrests, imprisonment and ruining lives.
It has turned into a plus for my campaign. Other primary candidates then jumped on board after I was outspoken on the issue.
Not only does marijuana provide health benefits, but it also can help promote job opportunities. There are a multitude of jobs that can be created, that can benefit people, not to mention the many innovations that can benefit society and create jobs as well.
We have too many politicians that don’t have the strength of their convictions. They don’t even have the strength of being on the right side of history, even though they see where history is going. Many personally support legalization and can see that marijuana is likely to be legal in 5 to 10 years, and yet they are still afraid. Don’t you want to be on the right side of history?
Mayor de Blasio has touted that marijuana possession arrests have decreased in NYC, but they actually increased in 2016 from 2015. Is there a disconnect between de Blasio’s rhetoric and the reality on the ground?
The disconnect between Mayor de Blasio’s rhetoric and the facts on the ground are across the board. There have been a number of reports that he is a user himself. How can you use it yourself and not support legalization?
What should people do to learn more about your campaign?
Be sure to join other cannabis legalization activists and entrepreneurs at the International Cannabis Business Conference in beautiful Kauai, Hawaii, December 1st thru the 3rd. After Kauai, the ICBC travels to San Francisco, February 1st-2nd, just one month after California is scheduled to legalize cannabis commerce for all adults.