"We applaud his candor,
but no one should be surprised. From Bill Clinton to George Pataki
to Clarence Thomas, many public officials have admitted something
pretty normal- theyve smoked pot." New York
City Ad by NORML
NYC Mayor Bloomberg's Pot Use is NORML
Text and Photos by Preston Peet- Special
April 10, 2002
Keith Stroup, Allen St. Pierre, John P. Morgan,
The National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana
Laws Foundation, (NORML),
launched a new $500,000 ad
campaign in New York City this week, urging an end to the
massive number of arrests of pot smokers in this city, and features
NYC Mayor Michael Bloombergs quote on his own use of pot.
"You bet I did. And I enjoyed it," said then Mayoral
candidate Bloomberg just before the elections last year when a
New York magazine reporter asked about his pot use.
"Im not thrilled theyre using
my name. I suppose theres that First Amendment that gets
in the way of me stopping it," Bloomberg told reporters Monday
when informed of the NORML ads graced with His Honors face
and attributing the quote to him, but said that the NYPD will
continue to vigorously enforce the laws. The campaign includes
a full-page ad in the New York Times on April 9, as well as posters
for bus stops, buses, and phone booths. There are also 2 60-second
radio ads that will be played by the top stations in the city.
NORML's NYC Advertisement
"Were not asking Mayor Bloomberg to
change the law," said NORML founder and Executive Director
Keith Stroup at a NYC press conference April 9, held in the Sheraton
Hotels packed-to-capacity Liberty Suites. "Were
simply asking him to end the double standard by which open
container violations are handled with a ticket and a fine,
while open smoking results in arrest and jail."
Possessing 25 grams of marijuana or less is only a ticketable
civil offense in NYC itself, similar to "open container laws,"
not even a misdemeanor. In 1992, when former Mayor Rudolph Giuliani
took office, there were just 2,000 arrests of pot smokers. Until
that time, cops would usually issue a ticket and fine instead
of arresting people, yet by 2000, NYC was arresting approximately
50,000 people for simple use and possession every year, nearly
a 1,000 a week. The NYPD now runs most every pot smoker they catch
through the criminal court system, which can take anywhere from
24 to 72 hours, or longer, subjecting marijuana users to dangers
far above and beyond any resulting from their simple use of pot,
and the city will oftentimes attempt to coerce those arrested
to plea out to charges they dont deserve under the law.
"I would hope the Mayor realizes were not out to embarrass
him," said Stroup, but rather that NORML is acknowledging
the Mayors honesty "is a major step forward."
"We picked this city because of this great
quote," as well as for its outrageous record for arresting
more and more pot smokers every year, Allen St. Pierre, Executive
Director of NORML, told Drugwar.com. St. Pierre noted that after
hearing such insulting silliness as "I didnt inhale,"
and more from a variety of US politicians, Bloombergs candor
was refreshing and offered a perfect opportunity to call attention
to the ridiculous, hypocritical, and harmful anti-pot policies
nationwide. "If Mayor Bloomberg is serious about saving the
city some money, this is a great way to do it," said St.
Pierre, alluding to Bloombergs efforts since taking office
to drastically cut costs to the city.
"Most marijuana use is associated with very
minimal health impacts, far less than the trauma of arrest, jail,
and a permanent criminal record," said John P. Morgan, Md.,
Professor of Pharmacology at the City University of New York (CUNY)
Medical School, co-author, (with Lynn Zimmer, Ph.D.), of "Marijuana
Myths, Marijuana Facts", and member of NORMLs Board
Tom Leighton of NYC's Marijuana
and Steve Bloom, editor at High
Much of the press pitched hardball but not all
that relevant questions at the NORML representatives. "Doesnt
buying drugs support terrorism?" asked one reporter. "Marijuana
in the US is mainly a domestic product," said Stroup emphatically,
"and of the three main countries that do export marijuana
to the US, Canada, Mexico, and Jamaica, I dont remember
any of them making it onto the US governments list of countries
that support terror." St. Pierre chimed in that a hypothetical
grow operation in Brooklyn, selling to buyers in Manhattan, would
have zero links to terrorism whatsoever. "Are you possessing
pot now?" asked another reporter of Stroup. "No, but
if youre asking if I smoke pot, the answer is of course,
for over 30 years, and Im a lawyer," replied Stroup.
Wouldnt putting the Mayors admission to using and
enjoying pot up all over the city give 13 and 14 year old kids
the idea that since the Mayor smoked pot, it is ok that they smoke
pot, asked another reporter. Stroup noted the "very first
tenant of NORMLs Principles of Responsible Cannabis Use
says cannabis is for adults only. NORML does not advocate
the use of any drugs, not alcohol, not tobacco, not pot, for children.
NORML advocates responsible use of marijuana by adults."
Stroup said hed point to pro-pot rallies such as the Seattle
Hemp Fest last year, attended by an estimated 150,000 people
with only one arrest, hoping Mayor Bloomberg would learn something
from those peaceful and successful rallies when asked by an activist
what advice hed offer the Mayor as regards the annual Marijuana
March in NYC, where arrests have numbered in the hundreds each
year for the last few years.
St. Pierre, Stroup, and Morgan field questions
from the press
Asked by Drugwar.com if there were plans for future
similar campaigns in other cities, Stroup said, "First things
first. Were not the federal government. We have a limited
budget. We chose NYC mainly because of the Mayors statement,
and the arrest data here." According to a new Zogby poll
released by NORML at the press conference, 56 percent of New Yorkers
oppose arrest for personal use of marijuana, with only 39 percent
supporting it. Across the US, according to the US Government's
Household Study on Drug Abuse, 1 in 3 adults have tried smoking
or in some way ingesting pot.
Ruth M. Liebesman, Legal Director NY NORML,
Tom Leighton, John F. Greco, Executive Director NY NORML,
and Peace, NYC activist for NORML and Cures-Not-Wars