Michael Bloomberg may seem like an unlikely person for this column. For one, he’s a politician – and politicians’ views on Cannabis are notoriously boring and ingenuine. Bloomberg’s are not.
Secondly, he’s one of the most successful businessmen in America, and businessmen (ahem, Elon Musk on Joe Rogan in 2018) generally do not talk about Cannabis, because the business world is slow to embrace a plant that, generally, helps people to relax and enjoy their lives (go figure). Bloomberg somehow is one of the rare billionaire businessmen/politicians who isn’t outright reviled by a wide swath of the population.
Bloomberg is mostly known as the former mayor of New York City, and for his presidential campaign. As the 108th mayor of New York, he favored policies on gun control, public health initiatives and environmental protections. But, like any politician, he had his issues. For example, he expanded the NYPD ‘stop and frisk’ program, which was widely considered racist and resulted in many drug arrests. He reversed his stance on the subject during his 2020 presidential campaign. Like many politicians (and people for that matter), it helps to be able to change your mind with the times.
When it comes to Cannabis, a historical perspective of Bloomberg’s views is somewhat difficult to ascertain. In one decade, he seems to be a staunch advocate of decriminalization and legalization, in another he’s arguing that there’s no such thing as medical Cannabis. But there is one instance where Bloomberg’s views on Cannabis seemed to be clarified, at least in a personal sense.
In the early 2000s in an interview in New York Magazine, Bloomberg was asked whether he had tried Cannabis before – to which he replied, “You bet I did. And I enjoyed it.” Scandal ensued. As Bloomberg mounted his mayoral campaign the next year, NORML seized on the amazing opportunity to utilize Bloomberg’s common-sense remarks to its own benefit – complete with an outdoor, print and radio ad campaign that featured a poster with Bloomberg’s face and the aforementioned quote prominently featured around New York. The press took notice, and he was forced to rescind the remarks due to public pressure. But even in this way, Bloomberg’s walking back didn’t involve lying (rare for a politician) “What I said back then was the truth,” he told a group of reporters at City Hall in 2002. “In terms of, I had, certainly when I was younger, as I suppose most people in my generation, experimented. I never lie, so if somebody asked me a question, I told them. Do I, in retrospect, wish I didn’t say it that day so they couldn’t quote it? Of course.”
This sort of adult, common-sense perspective is rare in politicians and public figures these days – but this doesn’t mean that Bloomberg’s a perfect politician, or even a perfect human. None of us are. And that’s why looking at all the different perspectives of people (even those you don’t agree with) is so important. In our ultra-connected, hyper-partisan world, we’re all going to be wrong in someone’s eyes, some of the time. But we’ll also be right sometimes, too. At the end of the day, Bloomberg’s admission of using Cannabis and enjoying it shouldn’t have been an issue – and his response to a simple question was simply the truth. And with the truth being rarer and rarer to see and hear these days – these ads, now almost 20 years old, look really cool!