Among the many low points of the 7294th debate of the season, which was held Tuesday night in South Carolina, was Mike Bloomberg's answer to the question of legalizing weed.
It started out okay. Bloomberg actually argued in favor of both decriminalization and expunging possession charges, which is kind of surprising considering both his love of policing and the fact that weed is a gateway to Big Gulps.
“The first thing you should do is we should not make this a criminal thing if you have a small amount," Bloomberg said. "For dealers, yes. But for the average person, no. You should expunge the records of those that got caught up in this before." Okay, fine. While I personally think the records of weed dealers should also be expunged (especially Tiny from Pensacola, who had the dankest nug east of Humboldt County from 2001-2006), I somehow doubt this is a winning position in much of the American electorate.
But then he went on to say that we're not ready for legalization on a federal level, something that two-thirds of Americans support. “You should listen to the scientists and the doctors," he said. "They say go very slowly, they haven’t done enough research and the evidence so far is worrisome. Before we get all our kids—particularly kids in their late teens, boys even more than girls—where this may be damaging their brains, until we know the science, it’s just nonsensical to push ahead."
False. While good research on weed was stalled for decades thanks to the federal government's insanely restrictive policies on studying this plant, we do know what happens to people who start smoking weed in adolescence: They have memory problems, impulse control, lowered motivation, and eventually end up working at The Stranger. But regardless of the effect of weed on the teenage brain, weed prohibition doesn't stop anyone from smoking it.
When I was pot-smoking toddler back in the last century, it was easier to get pot than booze, and that shit wasn't legal anywhere in the U.S. Besides, the evidence that legalization increases consumption among teens just doesn't exist. In fact, studies in Colorado have found that teen use declined after they legalized weed. Why? Maybe it's because they're too busy juuling, maybe it's because weed seems less cool when your parents openly use it, maybe it's because kids today give a shit about brain health, or maybe (probably) it's just harder to get in a regulated market.
Whatever the reason, this trend isn't just in Colorado: A 2019 study published in the journal JAMA Pediatrics found that while weed use among high school students has increased in recent years overall, in states that have legalized weed, teen use has actually declined.
If Bloomberg really gives a shit about teens using weed, he would do what Elizabeth Warren, Pete Buttigieg, Amy Klobuchar, and Stranger endorsee Bernie Sanders are pitching: legalize it. This wouldn't just unburden the criminal justice system, it would bring much-needed tax revenue to cities and states rather than continuing to prop up a black market.
Bloomberg's very uncool stance on weed isn't a huge surprise: Last year, he referred to cannabis as an "addictive narcotic" and said legalizing it is "perhaps the stupidest thing anybody has ever done." I'd argue that blowing hundreds of millions of dollars on an ill-fated presidential campaign is slightly dumber, but agree to disagree, I suppose. Regardless, if legalizing weed across the U.S. is something that you care about, Bloomberg should not get your vote.