Source: Daily News
Date: 9 April 2002

A Potshot at Mayor Mike's star
of pro-marijuana group's ad campaign

Daily News City Hall Bureau Chief

picture of Mayor Bloomberg's cannabis joint?

Apparently that's the view of a national pro-marijuana group, which is set to unveil a $500,000 ad campaign today starring Bloomberg.

When asked whether he had ever smoked pot, he declared last year, "You bet I did. And I enjoyed it."

The comment, which Bloomberg made last summer to New York magazine while still a longshot candidate, was a glib one-liner aimed at highlighting his speak-from-the-hip style.

But the mayor barely mustered a smile yesterday when asked about being the new poster boy for the Washington-based National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws.

"I am not thrilled they are using my name," Bloomberg said, who nevertheless added that he won't try to halt the ads on legal grounds. "I suppose there's that First Amendment that gets in the way of me stopping it."

A spokesman for NORML said the campaign is intended to generate support for rolling back the NYPD's policy, instituted under former Mayor Rudy Giuliani, of arresting and jailing anyone caught smoking marijuana in public.

The ads, which will be plastered in city subway stations, on buses and in newspapers, will feature a picture of Bloomberg, his quote on smoking pot and a tag line that will read, "It's NORML to Smoke Pot."

Police had issued no-jail citations to public pot smokers, much as they do to anyone caught swigging alcohol in public.

"We are not advocating that people smoke marijuana in public," said Nicholas Thimmesch, communications director of NORML. "We are just saying that when someone does that, it doesn't make any sense to arrest them, incarcerate them and tie up valuable police time."

But Bloomberg seemed unmoved yesterday, saying, "We should enforce the laws as they are, and the Police Department will do so vigorously."

The mayor did not elaborate on his pot-smoking history. But he has never refuted the New York magazine quote, nor has he made any secret of his often wild college and bachelor days.

Bloomberg attended Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore from 1960 to 1964, where he joined a fraternity that he once described in his book, "Bloomberg by Bloomberg," as not "much different from those in the classic John Belushi movie ‘Animal House.'"

"Though Hopkins was a serious place, and very competitive scholastically, we did drink and party a lot together," he wrote. "Maybe all that enjoyable ‘wasted' time had long-term benefits after all."

Yesterday, the group attempted to take the high road with Bloomberg, whom it praised for going where few politicians have dared venture. "We are very happy that the mayor has expressed his own personal experience with marijuana," Thimmesch said. "And what we say is, ‘At last, an honest politician.'"

The crackdown on city pot smokers has been dramatic. In 1992, 720 people were busted for toking in city streets or parks. By 1999, that number had soared to 33,471 as Giuliani pushed his zero-tolerance policy, which has remained largely in effect.

Bloomberg's decision not to go after the pro-marijuana group in court is in stark contrast to Giuliani, who sued New York magazine in 1997 after the weekly used his image, without permission, in ads touting it as "possibly the only good thing in New York Rudy hasn't taken credit for."

Although Giuliani convinced the Metropolitan Transportation Authority to remove the offending ads from city buses and subways, a federal court found that the MTA's decision had violated the magazine's free-speech rights.


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