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20 Years Since His Crackdown on NYC, Giuliani Remains Anti-Marijuana

Under his policy of “broken windows” policing, marijuana possession arrests in NYC ballooned to more than 40,000 annually.

Adam Drury

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20 Years Since His Crackdown on NYC, Giuliani Remains Anti-Marijuana
Brian Allen/ Wikimedia Commons

More and more politicians are revising their earlier stance on cannabis in favor of legalizing the drug. Hell, even Former GOP House Speaker John Boehner has seen the light. But some, like former NYC mayor Rudy Giuliani, are sticking to their views that marijuana has no place in polite society. For the former narcotics prosecutor and mayor, now turned Trump legal adviser, no amount of evidence, data, research, or personal testimony on the safety and benefits of medical or adult-use cannabis matters. Giuliani even stated in 2014 that “marijuana can deteriorate your brain.” Indeed, 20 years since his crackdown on NYC, Giuliani remains anti-marijuana.

“Broken Windows” and Giuliani’s Anti-Marijuana Legacy

In the early 1990s, Rudy Giuliani made a name for himself as a tough-on-crime mayor who would crack down on what he called “quality-of-life offenses“. Teaming up with notorious police commissioner William Bratton, Giuliani built his anti-crime worldview on the criminological theory of “broken windows.”

First introduced by social scientists in 1982, the broken windows theory asserts that visible signs of crime should take priority. But the visible also meant the minor. The idea was that by targeting minor crimes, one could make an atmosphere of order and lawfulness. In turn, that would prevent more serious crimes from taking place.

Under Giuliani’s and Bratton’s plan, things like public urination, public alcohol consumption, and possessing small amounts of marijuana became easier to punish. They also started carrying tougher consequences.

And if the goal was locking mass numbers of people up for non-violent, minor marijuana offenses, the plan certainly worked. In fact, it created a legacy of racially disparate mass incarceration NYC is still reeling from today.

Historically, marijuana possession arrests were around 1,000 per year before Giuliani took office. Under his watch, the rate ballooned to more than 40,000 annually.

Giuliani left office in 2001. But his 8-year tenure as mayor left behind a trail of ruined lives and over-policed communities. New York City is still fighting to undo the entrenched culture of “stop-and-frisk,” a practice US District Court Judge Shira Scheindlin ruled unconstitutional in 2013.

Rudy Giuliani—Still As Anti-Cannabis As Ever

Since leaving office, Giuliani has not backed down from his virulently anti-cannabis stance. In 2014, for instance, when teasing that he was considering a presidential run in 2016, Giuliani said: “marijuana can deteriorate your brain.”

“I used to be a narcotics prosecutor,” Giuliani reminded a crowd of investors. More recently, however, Giuliani seems to be avoiding talking about cannabis directly. But his vehement support for policies like “stop and frisk,” which significantly impacts adult cannabis users, is a dog whistle in that direction.

In recent months, high-profile Republican politicos like John Boehner have dramatically turned heel on the issue of legalizing adult-use cannabis. The trend is even catching on among New York Democrats. Under pressure from his primary rival Cynthia Nixon, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo recently announced a pivot toward legalization as part of his campaign for reelection.

But Rudolph Giuliani, ever the hard-line conservative, has been steadfast in his opposition to legal weed. He even opposes the use of cannabis as a medicine, calling it “unnecessary”. He also impugned that medical cannabis patients were just trying to legalize the drug for everybody.

The point would be less consequential if Giuliani were just making the rounds as a cable news pundit. But the former NYC mayor’s recent appointment as legal adviser to President Trump raises an important question. Will Giuliani’s views on cannabis influence an administration that’s been threatening a federal crackdown for over a year?

For now, Giuliani seems wrapped up in the President’s ongoing Stormy Daniels controversy. Today, he’s tearing up headlines for vowing to bring an end to the Mueller investigation into Trump’s possible collusion with Russia.

Still, Rudy Giuliani has the President’s ear. And as his legal advisor, he could influence the President’s course of action on cannabis. Trump’s appointee to head the Justice Department, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, has drawn the ire of just about everyone on the pro-cannabis spectrum for his wide-ranging and repeated threats of a federal crackdown on states with legal adult-use cannabis. With Rudy Giuliani as his legal adviser, Trump has just added another vocal and aggressive opponent of progressive marijuana reform to his inner circle.

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