On Friday evening, former three-term New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, 72, told a standing-room-only crowd at the Aspen Institute that Colorado’s legalization of marijuana was stupid. Bloomberg acknowledged he had smoked pot in the 1960’s, but pointed out that the current crop of marijuana is more easily available and more potent.
“What are we going to say in 10 years when we see all these kids whose IQs are 5 and 10 points lower than they would have been?” Bloomberg said. “I couldn’t feel more strongly about it, and my girlfriend says it’s no different than alcohol. It is different than alcohol. This is one of the stupider things that’s happening across our country.”
Bloomberg triggered a firestorm during his first mayoralty campaign when he was asked by New York magazine if he had ever tried pot. Bloomberg responded, ”You bet I did. And I enjoyed it.”
”I’ve always thought if we don’t want to enforce laws on the books, we should remove them from the books. But when you have laws, you breed contempt if you don’t enforce them,” he said one year later. “And I’ve listened to a lot of people over the years discuss the decriminalization of some narcotics, particularly marijuana, and on balance, I would side with those that think it’s a bad idea.”
A study in 2009 analyzing Bloomberg’s first two terms in office found that the number of lowest-level marijuana arrests totaled more than 50 percent higher than his predecessor, Rudolph Giuliani. The study also found that in 2008, the NYPD made more arrests for marijuana possession “than in the 12 years of Mayor Koch, plus the four years of Mayor Dinkins, plus the first two years of Mayor Giuliani … In other words, in one year, 2008, Bloomberg made more pot arrests than in 18 years of Koch, Dinkins and Giuliani combined.”
In 2013, Bloomberg reiterated his opposition to pot legalization, saying, “[T]he bottom line is, I’m told marijuana is much stronger today than it was 20 or 30 years ago. I don’t have any personal experience in terms of today. So that’s one problem. And number two, drug dealers have families to feed. If they can’t sell marijuana, they’ll sell something else, and the something else is going to be worse, and the push to legalize this is just wrong-headed. But they say: ‘Oh, well, it’s not going to hurt anybody. It doesn’t lead to dependency.’ Of course it does. And you can argue about recreational things, but it’s a very slippery path.”
Bloomberg spoke about other issues at Aspen, suggesting students become plumbers rather than attend Harvard because they would make $60,000 a year instead of spending $60,000 a year and starting their professional lives a quarter of a million dollars in debt. He argued that cities should create jobs in line with the nature of the city, pointing out that New York City does huge business in tourism and thus waitresses could make a fine living working in posh hotels.
“It’s always the poor that get screwed,” Bloomberg said, adding that higher education was not the answer. Pivoting to gun control, he said 95 percent of murders are committed by minority men between ages 15-25, adding that cities should keep guns out of that group’s hands.
“These kids think they’re going to get killed anyway because all their friends are getting killed,” he said. “They just don’t have any long-term focus or anything. It’s a joke to have a gun. It’s a joke to pull a trigger.”