Garfield's Ad Review: NORML's Bloomberg ad drops a big smoke bomb on the facts

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Shocking true confession: Like many in our generation, the Ad Review staff may possibly have experimented with marijuana two or three (thousand) times in the `60s and `70s.

But now we are older and wiser, and understand that "Mary Jane," as the young kids refer to it in their "hep" slang, is not the benign, soft drug we imagined it to be. Not that we think one joint is an addictive dose leading immediately to harder drugs and unprotected sex with junkies, but experience teaches us that dope, at a minimum, makes you stupid. And really good dope makes you especially stupid. If Albert Einstein and Oscar Wilde were sharing a bong, the conversation would sound approximately like this:

Einstein: "Whoa, man, did you ever really stare at your hand, man?

Wilde: "Did you ever really stare at your man, hand?" (laughs till he chokes).

Einstein: (also laughing hysterically) "Epic!"

So, notwithstanding our brief possible flirtation with reefer long ago, we are not necessarily proponents of decriminalization today-anymore than our long-ago junior-scientist experiments with setting things on fire makes us now pro-arson. This distinction would seem to be lost on the people at NORML, the National Organization for Reform of Marijuana Laws, which recently found an unlikely poster child: New York Mayor and multizillionaire vacationer Michael Bloomberg.

In either an unguarded moment or tactical salvo a year ago, Bloomberg replied to a boilerplate campaign question from New York magazine about past marijuana use by saying, "You bet I did. And I enjoyed it."

Credit the guy for not spinning a ridiculous, Clintonian whopper, we suppose, but shame on NORML for what happened next. Last week, in a full-page New York Times ad kicking off a $500,000 campaign, there was Bloomberg's smirking puss with a dialogue bubble attached, containing his enthusiastic recollection-about $600 million ago-of being baked into oblivion.

"At last," the headline declared, "an honest politician."

"We applaud his candor," the text read, in part, "but no one should be surprised. From Bill Clinton to George Pataki to Clarence Thomas, many public officials have admitted something pretty normal-they've smoked pot. One in three adult Americans say they've smoked pot; 19 million in the last year. So why are we arresting people for doing something normal?"

Then, after some dubious statistics, a call for decriminalization and the tagline: "It's NORML to Smoke Pot."

Undoubtedly, Bloomberg's admission bolsters NORML's argument that marijuana use is quite mainstream. And it raises the hypocrisy issue: Why are government officials prosecuting others for what they've done themselves? But mainly, as it is presented here, it implies a mayoral endorsement for decriminalization-which, as NORML well knows, Bloomberg has never once suggested. A little reverie on youthful indiscretion, or even not-so-youthful indiscretion, does not constitute a call for the repeal of drug laws. Once again, we ourselves rather enjoyed igniting polystyrene WWII fighter planes and the local woodlands, but we emphatically do not wish, 40 years later, to see such behavior decriminalized.

Normal though it may be for advocacy advertising to play fast and loose with the facts, this ad is one toke over the line.

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