[UPDATE BELOW] The Drug Policy Alliance wanted to put up this rather blah-looking billboard by the BQE Smith Street exit to inform motorists about the cost of the NYPD's boom in marijuana arrests. The ad refers to Bloomberg's disclosure (in an interview with New York when he first ran for mayor) that he has smoked marijuana. But apparently the mayor isn't feeling too groovy these days; the Alliance says that North America's largest transit advertising company refused to run the ad after pressure from the mayor's office.
An executive at the billboard company, Titan 360, allegedly said in an email to the Alliance that the landlord refused the ad because of "political circumstances from the Mayor’s office." "Driving along the BQE you can see ads for alcohol, strip clubs and casinos, but an ad that talks about the Mayor’s record on marijuana arrests in New York is rejected,” said Gabriel Sayegh of the Drug Policy Alliance. "Most New Yorkers don’t know that Mayor Bloomberg’s police arrested close to 50,000 people for marijuana possession last year at a price tag of nearly 100 million dollars."
Another fun fact: Prior to 1997, the lowest-level marijuana arrests were one percent of all arrests in the city. Since 1997, marijuana arrests have averaged 10 percent of all arrests in the city. There have been more low-level marijuana arrests under Bloomberg than under Mayors Dinkins, Koch and Giuliani combined.
UPDATE: David Etherington, the worldwide Marketing Director for Titan, called us to underscore the distinction between the landlord and Titan. "We sell ads on behalf the landlord of the property, but the landlords aren't involved in our decision-making process." Etherington tells that while the landlord may have made that comment in an email, no one at Titan claimed that political pressure from the mayor's office led to the ad rejection. Instead, "Titan's legal counsel made the decision not to run ad for two reasons: Because our lawyer felt it targeted an individual in unpolitical way, and because we have no way of knowing if Bloomberg in fact smoked marijuana." When we pointed out that Bloomberg has not disputed New York's quote, Etherington said, "We operate as a filter before anything can get too controversial, and we have a responsibility for ads we put up." And a spokesman for Mayor Bloomberg says it's "flatly false" that anyone in the mayor's office had anything to do with the billboard.