Home Culture Flip-Flopper: Bloomberg’s Checkered Past with Pot and Party Affiliation

Flip-Flopper: Bloomberg’s Checkered Past with Pot and Party Affiliation


Making the most of the uncertain political climate, billionaire businessman and former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg is flirting with a 2016 bid as an Independent presidential candidate for the third time since the 2008 elections.

According to people briefed on his deliberations, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss his plans, “Mr. Bloomberg…has already taken concrete steps toward a possible campaign, and has indicated to friends and allies that he would be willing to spend at least $1 billion of his fortune on it,” The New York Times reports.

The 73 year old businessman and politician is the 14th richest individual in the world with a net worth of $35.9 billion dollars, according to Forbes.

Having ultimately passed on running in the 2008 and 2012 presidential elections, many people are dismissing the billionaire this time around. But if there is one lesson we could learn from businessman-turned-Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, it’s that you can’t discredit anyone based on how many times they have explored the thought of campaigning. For the record, Trump has considered running four times, first time being after former President Ronald Reagan’s administration in 1988, which ultimately went to George H.W. Bush.

Bill Ackman, a billionaire investor who has historically supported Democrats, mentioned the similarities between the two business moguls at a dinner party a couple of months ago. Ackerman joked, “he’s all the best of Trump without the worst of Trump…I would do everything in my power to get this guy elected,” according to a The New York Times article.

A Harvard Business School graduate, Bloomberg moved to The City That Never Sleeps for a job on Wall Street in 1966. Later, in 1981, he founded the wildly successful Bloomberg LP where he and his co-founders created the financial industry’s first terminals allowing access to information on the bond market from a computer. The business has since grown into what we know as the business and financial news giant, Bloomberg News.

In 2002, just weeks after the terror attacks of September 11th, Bloomberg was elected to Mayor of New York City. Three terms later, in 2007, he left public service to return to the helm of Bloomberg LP and his foundation, Bloomberg Philanthropies. He currently works as CEO of Bloomberg LP full-time.

A Party Flip-Flopper

Originally a lifelong Democrat, the mayoral candidate switched to the Grand Old Party to better his chances of getting elected – a move which ended up winning him three elections.

The Republican Mayor changed to unaffiliated in 2007. At the time, The New York Times reported that according to friends he did it because “he is convinced that he can’t run as a Democrat, given his strong connections to Wall Street, his wealth and his “stop and frisk” policies as mayor, which rankled civil liberties groups.”

The Associated Press reports it is “a stunning move certain to be seen as a prelude to an independent presidential bid that would upend the 2008 race.” But the fiscally conservative, pro-gun control, climate change believer backed out of the 2008 race. Four years later he again said no to the 2012 presidential race.

Under his watch as Republican mayor, The Big Apple saw poorly received crackdowns on Occupy Wall Street protesters and the questionable surveillance of Muslim Americans. He also eliminated term limits, starting with his own, affording him the chance to win his third election victory.

A Checkered Past

Not only does Michael Bloomberg flip-flop when it comes to his party affiliation, but also on his stance on cannabis. The 2001 New York Magazine cover story of Bloomberg captured a quote on cannabis that would come to haunt the businessman and politician. In it he was asked if he ever smoked a joint and he said, “you bet I did, and I enjoyed it.”

NORML Ad in the NY Times
NORML Ad in the NY Times

You bet I did, and I enjoyed it.” Became the national headline for NORML (the National Organization for Reforming Marijuana Laws) and the centerpiece of their $500,000 dollar ad campaign.

Their tagline was, “it’s NORML to smoke pot.”

At the time, a newly elected Mayor Bloomberg wasn’t supportive of their decision to choose him in their ad campaign. He told reporters back in 2002, “I’m not thrilled they’re using my name. I suppose there’s that First Amendment that gets in the way of me stopping it,” adding that the New York Police Department will continue to vigorously enforce the laws. 

NORML founder and Executive Director Keith Stroup explained the reason his organization used the image of the mayor on buses and took out ads in the New York Times was to equalize policing policies. “We’re not asking Mayor Bloomberg to change the law, “We’re simply asking him to end the double standard by which ’open container’ violations are handled with a ticket and a fine, while ’open smoking’ results in arrest and jail.”

The Washington D.C. based organization added that using his image was their way of “respectfully urging” Bloomberg to stop arresting and jailing people marijuana users.

In his most up-to-date quote on how he feels about cannabis, Michael Bloomberg addressed a question on marijuana use from an audience member at the Aspen Institute. When asked if Colorado’s decisions around marijuana reforms, he said that it was a “terrible idea” that is “hurting the developing minds of our children” and “this is one of the stupider things that’s happening across our country.”

Political experts Bruce Abramson and Jeff Ballabon point out in a CNBC article that, “if Bloomberg is really interested in becoming president, he will enter the Democratic primary — soon. If he chooses any other course of action, he is just playing games.”

If he entered the race, Bloomberg would be the most conservative Democratic candidate in the 2016 race when it comes to marijuana. Calling marijuana reforms a “terrible idea” leaves him to the Right of Hillary Clinton, Martin O’Malley, and Bernie Sanders. Both Clinton and O’Malley support reclassifying marijuana as a Schedule II drug. Sanders is by far the most progressive when it comes to marijuana reform, calling for an end to the federal ban on the plant.

If Bloomberg wants a fighting chance in the Democratic heap, he needs to act sooner than later. Each state has different rules and deadlines when it comes to registering for their election primaries but with Iowa kicking off the first caucus on February 1st, chances of him winning the Democratic nomination are dwindling with every passing day.

The deadline for Bloomberg to declare himself an independent candidate is March.