Skip to main content

Politics: New York Governor Admits Past Cocaine, Marijuana Use, Few Are Bothered

Submitted by Phillip Smith on (Issue #529)
Politics & Advocacy

David Paterson
New York Gov. David Paterson unapologetically admitted to having used cocaine and marijuana in a television interview on NY1 News over the weekend, and for the most part, the revelation was greeted with a collective yawn. A handful of professional anti-drug advocates could be found to express their dismay, but otherwise, it appeared as if admissions of past drug use by politicians don't carry much negative weight anymore.

In his first TV interview since becoming governor in the wake of Eliot Spitzer's prostitution scandal and subsequent resignation, Paterson was asked by host Dominic Carter if he had ever used illicit drugs. Paterson responded that he had spoken publicly about the issue during the 2006 campaign:

Dominic Carter: You have?

David Paterson: Yes

Dominic Carter: Marijuana?

David Paterson: Yes

Dominic Carter: Cocaine?

David Paterson: Yes

Dominic Carter: You used cocaine, governor?

David Paterson: I'd say I was 22 or 23, I tried it a couple of times, yes.

Dominic Carter: When is the last time that -- is that the only time you've tried cocaine, governor?

David Paterson: Yeah, around that time, a couple of times and marijuana, probably, when I was about 20. I don't think I've touched marijuana since the late 70s.

Such admissions once marked a death knell for public office, as attorney Douglas Ginsburg found out early in the Reagan administration, when his admission of previous pot-smoking saw his nomination to the Supreme Court go up in smoke. But in recent years, politicians including former New York Gov. George Pataki, current New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, and, of course, former President Bill Clinton have all admitted to past marijuana use, with no apparent impact on their political viability. More recently, Sen. Barack Obama's admission of youthful cocaine and marijuana use does not seem to be dragging him down.

But that didn't stop Calvina Fay, director of the Drug Free America Foundation, from worrying that admissions like Paterson's "send the wrong message" to America's youth. Politicians need to accompany such admissions with anti-drug propaganda, she suggested in an interview with the New York Sun. "It's really their responsibility to take that extra step and to talk about how it's not something they are proud of. It's not something that is smart, that they were literally risking their life, and risking their future, so that our children don't get the idea that you can just do drugs and someday be governor," she said.

Joe Califano, head of the Center on Alcohol and Substance Abuse (CASA) at Columbia University, echoed the thought. "I think they ought to be honest but I think they also have to say this is not something you should do," he said. "That other piece is very important."

But in an interview with Newsday columnist Ellis Hennican, Drug Police Alliance executive director Ethan Nadelmann said the number of drug users in America had reached critical mass and it was time for "a more realistic" discussion of drug use.

"With numbers like these, the notion that someone has to lie is ludicrous at this point," said Nadelmann. "Look at the cohort of people age 30 to 60," he said. "A pretty substantial minority has done cocaine. Despite all the drug-war rhetoric, the vast majority of people who used cocaine did not go on to develop a coke habit or end up in terrible states. Some did. But the addiction rate was probably similar to that of alcohol."

One more politician has come out of the closet. Not only is Gov. Paterson an example to other elected officials, he is also in a position to do something about New York's draconian Rockefeller drug laws. Let's see if he can offer up something other than mere memories.

Permission to Reprint: This content is licensed under a modified Creative Commons Attribution license. Content of a purely educational nature in Drug War Chronicle appear courtesy of DRCNet Foundation, unless otherwise noted.


Anonymous (not verified)

A lot of polititians and other "High up's" have admitted violating the law yet they go unpunnished for their crimes! why is this? if I admit to my past crimes I believe I would be arrested! most of them also support the laws that they themselves violated, like a certain person named RUDY G. maybe they should just start doing what they have signed an oath to do! PROTECT, DEFEND AND UPHOLD THE LAWS OF THE CONSTITUTION. Stop playing big brother, start protecting us from our enimies, foreign and domestic, and let us make decisions for ourselves. WE DO NOT NEED TO BE PROTECTED FROM OURSELVES! BUT WE DO NEED TO BE PROTECTED FROM OUR GOVERNMENT'S ILLEGAL INSANE TACTICS!

Fri, 03/28/2008 - 7:27pm Permalink
Anonymous (not verified)

Ask any law enforcement official which domestic situation they'd prefer to avoid:

1) An individual or group high on liquid drugs... alcohol?
2) An individual or group high on marijuana?

Does anyone really doubt which drug has the statistically higher ratio of violence & death... even though marijuana smokers face much harsher penalties... including longer prison terms and forfeiture of assets... a drunk person would have to kill somebody to perhaps warrant such justice!

Suggest the following to any prohibitionist, or their legions of stooges & enforcers, and they'll try to kill or incarcerate you... and never mention their intellectual terrorism or they'll sympathetically proclaim you another poor 'paranoid delusional'... another victim of Satan's smoke... in desperate need of the type of compassion & rehabilitation that only an overcrowded massive prison system can provide!

Suggest that the 1st drug war, the Prohibition against 'liquid intoxicants' (the drug of choice of our European immigrants and ancestors... also the original 'gateway drug' ) which officially started in 1919 with the 18th amendment came about exactly the same way as the 2nd drug war, the Prohibition against marijuana... amazingly fast political actions by a radical Progressive Prohibition Movement (PPM)... how fast a responsible & vigilant citizen may wonder... less then 6 hours and no prior committee meetings!

If you're not immediately arrested or shot for your Gnostic rants, or hedonistically libertine crimes against their children and society at large, perhaps because your 'accusers' find you amusing.... like a cat with a wounded mouse or bird... they'll allow you to continue with your conspiracy theories.

EXCEPT... your lawyers sage advice starts to become audible through the cognitive dissonance dissipating inside your newly numbed skull... previously drowning out rational thought and hampering critical thinking (professionals commonly refer to this as 'caveman mode')... he's screaming at you to 'ZIP IT' --- because your 'accusers' will use everything you say and they make up against you, etc, etc...!

Most cops are unwilling stooges of the current Progressive Prohibition Movement! Cops are given great discretionary powers and it's unwise to provoke someone who may be and/or act sympathetic. However, zealot sects like the DEA are trained to react violently against 'druggies', however peaceful, however responsible, even vital, to their existence.

Facts confuse and threaten prohibitionists, and, they should fear the wealth of information and knowledge the few libertarian minded among us possess... not to mention the criminal implications the equally illegal 2nd drug war carries! If only we could get the justice dept to do it's job and strike down illegal laws... as it did when it struck down the 1st drug war in 1933.

I believe it's also long past time to start holding those responsible... accountable... for their serious crimes ... regardless of title or stature... had the supreme court held the PPM responsible for their crimes in 1933 when they repealed drug prohibition... we wouldn't be fighting these dangerous delusional criminals now!

But the fundamentalist PPM remains alive, newly energized, and enabled today thanks to her immortal allies: fear, ignorance, certitude, copious amounts of hypocrisy, and the heavy hand of the police state... so beloved by moralists and the purveyors of gods & governments!

Prohibitionists remain antagonistic and dangerous to a modern egalitarian society... their delusions, desperations, paranoia's, pretenses, and proclamations make them more deceitful, disgusting, and criminal then ever.

Billy B. Blunt
Tacoma, WA

Fri, 03/28/2008 - 10:21pm Permalink

Add new comment

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.
This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.