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"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- they’ve smoked pot." New York City Ad by NORML

NYC Mayor Bloomberg's Pot Use is NORML

Text and Photos by Preston Peet- Special to

April 10, 2002

Keith Stroup, Allen St. Pierre, John P. Morgan, M.D.

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 Bloomberg’s 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.

"I’m not thrilled they’re using my name. I suppose there’s 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 Honor’s 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

"We’re 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 Hotel’s packed-to-capacity Liberty Suites. "We’re 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 don’t deserve under the law. "I would hope the Mayor realizes we’re not out to embarrass him," said Stroup, but rather that NORML is acknowledging the Mayor’s 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 St. Pierre noted that after hearing such insulting silliness as "I didn’t inhale," and more from a variety of US politicians, Bloomberg’s 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 Bloomberg’s 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 NORML’s Board of Directors.

Tom Leighton of NYC's Marijuana Reform Party,
and Steve Bloom, editor at High Times Magazine

Much of the press pitched hardball but not all that relevant questions at the NORML representatives. "Doesn’t 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 don’t remember any of them making it onto the US government’s 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 you’re asking if I smoke pot, the answer is of course, for over 30 years, and I‘m a lawyer," replied Stroup. Wouldn’t putting the Mayor’s 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 NORML’s 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 he’d 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 he’d 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 if there were plans for future similar campaigns in other cities, Stroup said, "First things first. We’re not the federal government. We have a limited budget. We chose NYC mainly because of the Mayor’s 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 National 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

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