Democratic presidential candidate Michael Bloomberg said last year that legalizing marijuana is “perhaps the stupidest thing anybody has ever done.” But now that he’s on the 2020 campaign trail vying for the nomination of a party whose voters overwhelmingly back ending prohibition, the former New York City mayor says that it’s the incarceration of people for cannabis that is truly “dumb.”
The latest comment came in response to Denver reporter who asked: “Are the people of Colorado stupid for legalizing it?”
Bloomberg, who continues to oppose broad marijuana legalization but now backs simple decriminalization of cannabis possession, replied that “we shouldn’t put anybody in jail over it.”
“Colorado has a right to do what they want to do,” he told local NBC affiliate KUSA on Saturday. “I would advise going slowly to any other state because it’s not clear, doctors aren’t sure whether or not it’s doing damage. But if a state wants to do it, and Colorado and Washington were the first two that did it, that’s up to the state.
“But what I really object to is putting people in jail for marijuana,” Bloomberg added. “That’s really dumb.”
Watch Bloomberg’s latest marijuana comments:
In Jan. of 2019, Bloomberg said legalizing marijuana "is perhaps the stupidest thing anybody has ever done." I asked him if the people of Colorado are stupid for legalizing it. "We shouldn't put anyone in jail over it. Colorado has a right to do what they want to do…" #9News pic.twitter.com/Wkuc84NGPh
— Marc Sallinger (@MarcSallinger) February 1, 2020
In addition to previously calling the policy change “stupid,” Bloomberg also claimed that legalizing cannabis is “nonsensical” during separate remarks last year.
But his position has shifted since joining the race for the Democratic nomination at a time when the party’s voters overwhelmingly support legalizing marijuana. A Gallup poll released in October showed that 76 percent of Democrats want to end cannabis prohibition.
In December, aides to Bloomberg told The Wall Street Journal that the candidate now “believes in decriminalization and doesn’t believe the federal government should interfere with states that have already legalized.”
During Bloomberg’s time as New York City mayor, he vigorously defended the police department’s controversial stop-and-frisk program through which officers frequently detained and searched people—the majority of them people of color. The policy helped to sharply drive up the city’s cannabis arrest rate.
Aside from Bloomberg and former Vice President Joe Biden, all other 2020 Democratic presidential candidates supporting legalizing marijuana.
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), for example, pledged at a rally in Iowa on Saturday that he would “legalize marijuana in every state in this country” on his “first day in office, through executive order.”
Former South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg, another contender for the party’s nomination, said that if Congress refuses to legalize marijuana when he is president he will board Air Force One and “fly it directly into the home district of a member who is standing in the way” to gin up pressure from constituents.