In season three of the wire, one of the police district majors established "legalized drug" zones in a few abandoned areas of his district, in order to clean up the rest of it. One of the cops tells the street dealers that these places will be like Amsterdam, which the street boys amusingly mishear as "Hamsterdam."

In any case, watching these episodes, it struck me that, while I don't know if anyone in Baltimore really did this, New York City has done and is doing it.

Has done it: My friend grew up down on Columbia Street in Brooklyn when it was rough. He tells me that cops would bring people they caught trying to buy drugs elsewhere down to Columbia Street: it was the Hamsterdam of the time.

Is doing it: Well, this is city wide, but I see it as a version of the same idea: The police in NYC seem to have chosen to entirely forget that there are laws against smoking pot. All the time, I see and smell people smoking on the sidewalk, but never have I seen anyone even hassled for this. The other day, I walked up my block, and there was two guys in a big SUV parked on the curb with clouds of smoke rolling out of their windows. Mid-day, this was.

This post is a prelude to some thoughts on ending the drug war. But those will have to wait for tomorrow.


  1. I heard that NYC decriminalized the mere possession of small amounts of marijuana, but it was still prohibited to openly display it. So cops would tell people to empty their pockets, then arrest them for removing the marijuana.

  2. That may have been happening at one point. But what I see now is pretty open display!


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