Illegal weed shops are today’s broken windows: Mike Bloomberg’s solution to NYC’s illicit cannabis sellers sounds like his excessive stop-and-frisk policy

“Fast, cheap, good: You can get any two,” a contractor friend likes to say.

Similarly, as Mike Bloomberg put it in a Washington Post column Friday: “Advocates promoted legalization as a way to increase tax revenue, establish a safe marketplace, and reduce arrests and criminal penalties.”

But, he continued, “the only way to achieve the first two goals is to abandon the third, by cracking down on the illegal stores that undercut legal sellers.”

Mayor Mike may be right, but he should have stopped and frisked that argument and then arrested himself before letting it be published with his byline given how he’s the worst possible messenger here.

“Ninety-five percent of your murders — murderers and murder victims — fit one M.O. You can just take the description and Xerox it and pass it out to all the cops. They are male minorities 15 to 25,” Bloomberg said in 2015, seeking to justify the massive expansion of stop-and-frisk in his first decade as mayor not long after New Yorkers had replaced him with a candidate who won on a vow to end that policing.

“People say, ‘Oh my God, you are arresting kids for marijuana who are all minorities.’ Yes, that’s true. Why? Because we put all the cops in the minority neighborhoods. Yes, that’s true. Why’d we do it? Because that’s where all the crime is. And the way you should get the guns out of the kids’ hands is throw them against the wall and frisk them.”

Bloomberg gave a perfunctory apology for stop and frisk and his 2015 remarks after those resurfaced while he was running for president as a Democrat in 2020, entering the field not long after his successor, Bill de Blasio, dropped out of it.

In the end, Democratic voters wanted nothing to do with New York City’s last two mayors. Bloomberg spent a billion dollars to win four delegates from American Samoa. (You can forget about the billion more he talked about spending to support the party’s nominee if that wasn’t him; he certainly did,)

No longer needing to court voters, Bloomberg is back to calling for a crackdown — making an exception to his admirable habit of restraining himself from publicly weighing in on New York’s politics — while conspicuously omitting the central idea of funneling store profits to the people and the tax take to the places that were hit hardest by the long War on Weed here.

He’s right that two years after legalization, the legal marketplace is a grim joke with three licensed shops in the city, all within walking distance of each other in the Village and without a single shop in the neighborhoods that should have been first in line.

But there are about 1,400 illegal storefronts openly selling the stuff citywide, with new ones opening all the time.

Bloomberg, who endorsed and has advised Mayor Adams, blamed “the Legislature [that] rushed legalization into law without having any system in place for licensing or enforcement,” and said “Voters should demand that New York’s governor and Legislature take responsibility for this mess and fix it.”

Albany is reportedly discussing “tweaks” to the law while Adams has played for time, alternating between talk about “educating” unlicensed store owners and vows to shut them down while purposefully confusing cigarette enforcement with weed enforcement both to justify the raids and to make it sound like his administration is doing much more than it is to enforce the rules.

Adams also keeps using his Law Department’s interpretation of the state law to explain why the city hasn’t been able to deter illegal shop owners or their landlords. (A mayor doesn’t write the laws, but does have great power and discretion to interpret and prioritize them.)

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The Rudy-era phrase is deeply out of fashion but pot shops are the city’s new broken windows: a sign the rules don’t really matter.

The fundamental dilemma for Adams, whatever “tweaks” to legalization happen in Albany, is in enforcing rules without leaning on law enforcement.

Eric Adams listens during a press conference at NYPD headquarters on March 9, 2023 in Manhattan, New York.

Rules that don’t matter can be more problematic than no rules at all and no one except maybe Bloomberg wants pot legalization to be a pretext for more arrests.

A related dynamic applies to street vendor enforcement, which de Blasio moved from the NYPD to the Department of Consumer and Workplace Protection.

The Daily News’ Michael Gartland reported on Friday afternoon, in what seemed like a classic news dump by the administration that didn’t issue its own statement about it, Adams is now moving enforcement to the Department of Sanitation a week after Flushing Councilwoman Sandra Ung called for a crackdown there.

Another expression from that contractor: “Measure twice, cut once.”

Siegel ([email protected]) is an editor at The City and a columnist for the Daily News.

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