That Time Bloomberg Called Colorado Stupid for Legalizing Weed

As of February 5, Mike Bloomberg had spent more money on TV ads than Hillary Clinton did during her entire 2016 campaign.
As of February 5, Mike Bloomberg had spent more money on TV ads than Hillary Clinton did during her entire 2016 campaign. Gage Skidmore / Flickr
Does Michael Bloomberg think marijuana users are stupid?

Well, that's really not a question. He's already made his opinion known...and in Colorado.

“I couldn’t feel more strongly about it," Bloomberg told a crowd at the Aspen Institute in 2015, after he was asked his thoughts on this state's legalization of recreational marijuana. "It is different than alcohol. This is one of the stupider things that’s happening across our country.”

What was it that Jonah Hill said to Dave Franco in Superbad after bringing up Franco pissing his pants in middle school? "People don't forget."

Now running for president in a crowded Democratic primary, Bloomberg is hoping that money washes away his past decisions and remarks. Putting aside other policies for now let's look at how Bloomberg has treated the cannabis community.

Over a decade before he called Colorado's decision to legalize the plant stupid, Bloomberg already had a rocky relationship with pot as mayor of New York. Although yearly marijuana arrests peaked under his predecessor, Rudy Giuliani, in the early 2000s, Bloomberg's stop-and-frisk policy and insistence on arrests for low-level pot possession led to around 440,000 arrests for marijuana possession alone over a ten-year span during his time as mayor, according to the Drug Policy Alliance.

The moves created a cold relationship with minority communities, with Latin men and black men arrested at rates 3.5 times higher and 7.8 times higher, respectively, than white men, according to research from Queens College. But Bloomberg, unaware of the oncoming wave of public resentment toward white privilege or simply immune to giving a shit about it, has actually admitted to smoking pot in the ’60s.

"You bet I did. And I enjoyed it," he said when asked in 2001 if he'd ever tried smoking marijuana.

Shortly after he was elected mayor, Bloomberg expressed regret for the comment. To rub the admission in his face, the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws created a $500,000 campaign in 2002, using the quote on posters plastered around the city. The move, though clever, didn't do much to deter Bloomberg at the time. He didn't back decriminalization for marijuana possession until 2012, the year before his final term ran out.

The billionaire's past continues to haunt his current campaign no matter how much money he throws at it, which was on full display during the February 19 Democratic debate. He's claimed to have come around on marijuana since his days as mayor, but Bloomberg remains one of two Democratic candidates (Joe Biden is the other) who doesn't support federal legalization.

Bloomberg's platform on marijuana reform includes decriminalizing possession of "small amounts" of marijuana nationwide, expunging past crimes for low-level possession and leaving the rest up to states "for the moment” while his administration takes "public health and safety into account." He also acknowledges that "the criminal approach to marijuana has fallen disproportionately on the black community."

Despite his sketchy past with pot and his failure to support federal legalization, Bloomberg is still trying to reach the hip, young voter, spending buttloads of cash on advertisements with popular Instagram pages frequented by marijuana users, including one page that labels itself "the source of the best cannabis content on the Internet."

The private account, @FourTwenty, currently has 3.7 million followers, and usually posts memes about friends who talk too much in the joint circle or how red your eyes get after taking too big a bong rip. But on February 12, the account posted a screenshot of a fake conversation between @FourTwenty and Bloomberg's Instagram page, discussing a partnership between the two.

"Do you smoke weed all day in lieu of assuming responsibilities of a typical adult?" the FourTwenty account asks.

"No," Bloomberg replies.

"Sorry can't do it. Vibe is off," the stoner account writes. The conversation would've been great had it actually happened, but a tag under the photo reads "#sponsored by @mikebloomberg."

And if you're high enough, he might try to sponsor your vote, too.
KEEP WESTWORD FREE... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Thomas Mitchell has written about all things cannabis for Westword since 2014, covering sports, real estate and general news along the way for publications such as the Arizona Republic, Inman and Fox Sports. He's currently the cannabis editor for
Contact: Thomas Mitchell