TF Archives

America's War on Pot: Giuliani Busted 33,000 Smokers

Author: Jonty Adderley
Saturday, April 20, 2002
Sir Rudolph Giuliani's puritanical embrace of zero tolerance when he was Mayor of New York saw a fifty fold increase in busts for marijuana possession, the International Herald Tribute reported this week. While 720 smokers were arrested for smoking in parks or on the street in 1992, in 1999, 33,471 were nicked, while in the US last year an astonishing 734,000 people were caught by the cops.

Incredibly, since 1975, New York law "mandates that pot offenders who possess 25 grams or less in private be issued a citation in lieu of a criminal arrest," Alternet executive editor Don Hazen pointed out this week.

"Yet rabidly anti-drug former mayor Giuliani ignored the law," he explained.

The Herald Tribune article was prompted by the behaviour of Giuliani's successor Mayor Bloomberg, who despite admitting he'd previously smoked pot and enjoyed it, has also been promising this week to maintain Giuliani's policies "vigorously". Many arrested users, even if they're caught with just a roach or blim, are often jailed overnight in New York's notoriously dangerous prisons, in communal cages packed with scores of criminals.

One such smoker who passed through Rikers Island prison was leading US author Darryl Pinkney who was seized by undercover cops after smoking a joint on a Lower East Side street.

"We'd been abruptly deprived of our liberty and that would always make for a chilling memory," he wrote in the Guardian last April.

"And as I'd learned sitting in the cell with all those guys whose stories I didn't know and couldn't ask for: the system exists, the system- for the non-white youth, the poor, is real." (Alternet) (Rikers Island Prison, New York)