Michael Bloomberg is doubling down on his opposition to marijuana legalization as he inches closer to deciding whether to run for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination.
In a speech at the U.S. Naval Academy on Tuesday, the former New York City mayor talked about drug overdose deaths in recent years—a consequence of the nation’s opioid crisis—and then made an abrupt pivot to cannabis reform.
“We have a different kind of problem in America, for example,” he said. “Last year, in 2017, 72,000 Americans OD’d on drugs. In 2018, more people than that are OD-ing on drugs.”
“And today incidentally, we are trying to legalize another addictive narcotic,” he said, referencing marijuana, “which is perhaps the stupidest thing anybody has ever done. We’ve got to fight that, and that’s another thing that Bloomberg Philanthropies will work on it in public health.”
While speaking at Annapolis, former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg also blasted efforts to legalize marijuana, calling it "perhaps the stupidest thing we’ve ever done." pic.twitter.com/dN5sdJdYBt
— DJ Judd (@DJJudd) January 23, 2019
Bloomberg also defended controversial policing tactics he embraced as mayor, arguing that “stop-and-frisk worked” and that it wasn’t inherently racially discriminatory.
If he does ultimately run for president, Bloomberg will be one of the only Democratic candidates who actively opposes broad cannabis reform. That will put him at odds with the vast majority of voters in the party—75 percent of whom support legalizing cannabis, according to the most recent Gallup poll.
But in spite of that, Bloomberg hasn’t shied away from his unpopular position. Just last week, he criticized efforts to legalize marijuana during a separate speech at the University of Toronto.
“To go and encourage people—to make it easier for people to engage in a behavior that has a significant possibility of damaging people’s health—is just nonsensical,” he said. “This mad, passionate rush to let everybody do things without any research just isn’t something we would do in any other way.”
Meanwhile, the list of Democratic candidates who support marijuana reform efforts has continued to grow: Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) and Kamala Harris (D-CA) and Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI) all back legalization.
Photo courtesy of Center for American Progress/Ralph Alswang.