Did NYC Mayor Lean On Billboard Co. To Reject Pot Arrest Ad?


Graphic: Drug Policy Alliance

​New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, an admitted pot smoker, isn’t acting too cool these days. According to the Drug Policy Alliance, a billboard company refused to run an ad regarding the cost of arresting marijuana smokers after pressure from the mayor’s office.

The DPA received notice from Titan 360, North America’s largest transit advertising company, that a billboard set to run on the Brooklyn Queens Expressway (BQE) criticizing Mayor Bloomberg for his out-of-control marijuana arrest policy will not be allowed to run.
The landlord refused the ad because of “political circumstances from the Mayor’s office,” according to an email from a Titan 360 account executive.

“Nearly half of all New Yorkers have tried marijuana — including Mayor Bloomberg,” the rejected ad says. “We can’t arrest them all but Bloomberg is trying.” The ad then gives two statistics: “Marijuana arrests last year: 50,000. Cost to taxpayers: nearly $100 million.”

Photo: NYAM Photos-aHart
Gabriel Sayegh, Drug Policy Alliance: “Most people don’t know that Mayor Bloomberg’s police arrested close to 50,000 people for marijuana possession last year at a price tag of nearly 100 million dollars”

​”Driving along the BQE you can see ads for alcohol, strip clubs, and casinos, but an ad that talks about the Mayor’s record on marijuana arrests in New York is rejected,” said Gabriel Sayegh of the Drug Policy Alliance.
“Most New Yorkers don’t know that Mayor Bloomberg’s police arrested close to 50,000 people for marijuana possession last year at a price tag of nearly 100 million dollars,” Sayegh said. “This information should not be censored.”
More low-level marijuana arrests have been made in New York City under Mayor Bloomberg than under Mayors Dinkins, Koch and Giuliani combined.
In contrast to the mayor’s “moderate” and “independent” reputation, Bloomberg has overseen more low-level marijuana arrests than any other elected official in New York history.

Photo: Gay Socialites
If you’re in Mayor Bloomberg’s New York City, you’d better not smoke pot unless you’re white.

​While half of New Yorkers — including the Mayor — have tried marijuana, the people getting busted are mostly low-income blacks and Latinos, according to DPA.
Last year, 46,500 people were arrested for marijuana possession; 89 percent of those arrested were black or Latino, even though whites have higher rates of marijuana use.
Moreover, in the 12 years between 1997 and 2008, the NYPD made more than 10 times the number of marijuana arrests than in the previous 12 years.
Before 1997, the lowest-level marijuana arrests were one percent of all arrests in New York City. Since 1997, marijuana arrests have averaged 10 percent of all arrests in the city.
New Yorkers may find it ironic that New York City leads the world in marijuana arrests, given that marijuana has been decriminalized there since 1977.
Why are so many arrested if marijuana is decriminalized? Often it’s because, in the course of interacting with police, individuals are asked to empty their pockets, which results in the marijuana being “open to public view” — which is, technically, a crime.
This type of cynical deception perpetrated by law enforcement officers carries a heavy price.
“Even a marijuana arrest can have profound consequences,” said Sayegh, “including loss of college financial aid, food stamps, public housing and, in some cases, even voting rights.”
“For immigrants in our city, these arrests could lead to instant deportation,” Sayegh said. “Money wasted and lives ruined — for what?”
“Bloomberg spent 100 million dollars of New Yorkers’ money last year on these arrests,” Sayegh said. “Let’s remember that the next time the city lays off teachers and cuts off MTA services.”