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Legalizing Marijuana; Interview With New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg; Marijuana Movement is Growing; Rock Star Of The GOP

Aired November 6, 2013 - 16:00   ET


JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Boston, Minneapolis, Charlotte, Detroit, Pittsburgh, Saint Petersburg, Seattle, hundreds of cities have new mayors today. Cross your fingers for no crack smokers.

I'm Jake Tapper. This is THE LEAD.

The national lead, our first guest has led the biggest city in the nation for the past 12 years. But now the reign is nearly up for New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg. We will ask him how he feels about handing the keys to the city to a far more liberal public official, someone's whose policies he finds disappointing in some cases.

The buried lead, the largest city in Maine legalizing recreational marijuana, and you do not even need to pretend you have glaucoma. Three cities in Michigan also relaxing their pot laws. How long before it's legal where you live?

And the money lead, Burger King hitting McDonald's with a shot to the McRibs, adding a hamburger that looks suspiciously like a Big Mac, but with 40 fewer calories. Finally a way for health nuts to have it their way? Or is that pitch as worthless a bucket of pink slime?

Good afternoon, everyone. I'm Jake Tapper. Welcome to THE LEAD.

We will begin with the national lead.

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie could end up challenging President Obama's former secretary of state or his current vice president or, who knows, his current caddy in 2016. But at least the president is being a good sport about it for the time being. Sources tell me President Obama called Governor Christie this afternoon to congratulate him on his landslide reelection win last night against the Democrat.

Christie was so far ahead in the polls that his victory wasn't really in doubt.

The same could be said for New York City's mayoral race. Bill de Blasio was elected as the first Democrat to lead that city in 20 years.

To hear some liberals tell it, he will rein in the NYPD, harmonize with the unions, make all the taxies smell like Chanel No. 5. To hear some conservatives tell it, Times Square is about to turn back into nothing but XXX movie theaters as soon as de Blasio is sworn in. On many issues, de Blasio differs sharply from current Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who was once a Republican and later changed to become an independent.

As mayor of our largest city, which is largely Democratic, Bloomberg has irked conservatives with his views on everything from gun control to sugary sodas.

And joining me now is the mayor of New York City, at least for a little bit longer, Michael Bloomberg.

Mr. Mayor, thanks so much for joining us.

MICHAEL BLOOMBERG (I), MAYOR OF NEW YORK: Thank you for having me.

Fifty-five days, to be exact.

TAPPER: Fifty-five days.

So, congratulations. Your candidate in Virginia, Terry McAuliffe, eked out a victory.

But you were also used against Democrats. And I want to get your reaction to your name being used in this attack ad put out in the Virginia attorney general race by the NRA Political Victory Fund.


NARRATOR: Mark Herring is supported by New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg. Herring will back Bloomberg's big government agenda, gun control, gun rationing, a ban on the most popular rifle in America.


TAPPER: Obviously, when one becomes active in politics, you got used to that sort of thing.

But what -- what did you think about you being used against Democrats?

BLOOMBERG: Well, I'm not sure that the NRA, in retrospect, should have done that, because when we started, Mark Herring was something like six points behind. And, at the moment, because they have to have a recount. There's something like 100 votes separating the two candidates.

Terry McAuliffe, in a -- if you think about this, Virginia is the home state of the NRA. That's where their headquarters are, south of the Mason-Dixon Line. If I, 20 years ago, said to you that a Democrat who was F-rated by the NRA and unabashedly in favor of commonsense gun checks, background checks, if I told you he could win governor, you would have laughed me out of the room.

The truth of the matter is, this is a phenomenal victory. The people of Virginia have spoken. And the people of Virginia are going to be safer because of this.

TAPPER: I wonder when you make your decision to get involved in a race like this whether you weigh the -- the cost/benefit.

According to the Virginia Public Access Project, your group Independence USA PAC gave $1.7 million to Terry McAuliffe, more than $3 million in Virginia races. And your candidate won. It was a close race.

Knowledgeable Democrats tell me that your ad, specifically the one -- I know you ran a number of ads, but specifically the one supporting greater restrictions on guns, it played really well in the inner suburbs, right near D.C., where McAuliffe over performed -- outperformed President Obama.

But, they said, feelings about the NRA in the outer suburbs are more positive than negative and the ads there were more of a mixed bag. And in Southwestern Virginia, where McAuliffe did poorly, your involvement was used as a message point against him.

How do you decide if your involvement will do more good than harm?

BLOOMBERG: Well, the first thing is based on principles.

What does the candidate stand for?

This year, 12,000 Americans are going to get killed with handguns, 19,000 are going to commit suicide with illegal handguns. This is a carnage that only exists in the United States. And we've got to do something about it.

McAuliffe won, which says a majority of the voters in Virginia want commonsense background checks. They don't want to end the Second Amendment. They don't want to take away your right to bear arms or for sport or whatever you do, or to collect.

But they think that we shouldn't be selling guns to criminals and people with psychiatric problems.

And from my personal point of view, I represent New York City. We are -- when we stop people with guns, illegal guns, more of them come from Virginia, sadly, than from any other state. So that was one of the factors that also convinced me that I should put some money into this race.

TAPPER: We've seen some more tragic shooting events in the past couple of weeks -- the student in Nevada who shot his teacher, the LAX incident, the gunman who killed himself in Paramus, New Jersey, a few days ago.

In a few weeks, we're going to commemorate the one-year anniversary of the horrific incident in Newtown.

Do you think President Obama has done enough to persuade Congress to -- to push this issue that you have been trying to work on so...


TAPPER: ... so hard? BLOOMBERG: I think the answer is, no, he's not done enough, but, yes, he is trying as hard as he can. We have not got this done yet. And it's not just up to the president.

He has stood -- steadfast stood up and said, we should have reasonable background checks. He had appointed Joe Biden, his vice president, as his go-to guy. Joe Biden has been accessible to us. We talk strategy.

Both of the -- the president and the vice president have talked about this. And they certainly are as big a help as they can possibly be.

TAPPER: Governor Christie was asked about the shooting in New Jersey yesterday.

Here's what he said.


GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), NEW JERSEY: We need to get at some of the root problems of this. And we need to deal with folks who have mental health issues before they act out in a violent...


TAPPER: Now, Governor Christie's point on this is that it's not as sexy an issue, mental health, but that both Democrats and Republicans could find common ground on it and probably could have a real impact on all this gun violence at the hands of individuals who have serious emotional problems.

Do you think that your efforts could be, if not better spent, at least well spent, addressing the mental health issue? Are we missing an opportunity here?

BLOOMBERG: You're really talking about two things.


BLOOMBERG: When you have somebody like Newtown or Virginia Tech, clearly, that person has psychological problems.

And if we knew -- I don't know how anybody would tell -- but if you knew in advance that he could go out and kill people, of course we would try to bring them in and make sure they get medical care and don't let them back on the streets until we think they're safe for society to be walking on the streets.

What Governor Christie is talking about is the person that takes an automatic weapon and kills many people. And, yes, I'm very much in favor of trying to find those people and provide help and get them off the streets.

But keep in mind, the number of people killed in the big splashy things that you use from wall-to-wall coverage on CNN, that's not where most people are killed. Most people are killed one or two at a time on the streets of our cities all over this country.

TAPPER: Let's turn to the New York City race last night. Democrat Bill de Blasio won handily. You chose not to endorse anyone in this race.

And I don't want to put words in your mouth, but it certainly seems like you might have some concerns about the mayor-elect's position, especially on issues such as stop and frisk, perhaps raising taxes.

You met with him this morning. What -- what did you have to tell him?

BLOOMBERG: Well, I -- Bill de Blasio and I aren't going to agree on everything, but we certainly agree on a lot of things.

I had a great hour-long meeting with him this morning, where he and I, just one-on-one, talked about how we can help in the transition. We've created a -- a -- a book for him, an electronic book, where he can look at every agency and see what's needed and the people that are there and what the issues are that he's going to have to face short- term and long-term.

And he and I agreed to get together periodically over the next two months. Keep in mind, I have a big vested interest in making Bill de Blasio an even better mayor than I was, having his administration even be better than ours was.

We built a lot. We've given them a lot to work with, as did our predecessors. But the bottom line is, I'm going to live in New York City and I want Bill de Blasio's administration to be successful and our administration to do everything to transfer everything we've been doing over.

And then he's got to make his own decisions. And some things will look easy and then, when he gets into them, he'll find them more difficult and maybe he will change his mind. And that's exactly what we did, the same thing.

TAPPER: It may not surprise you that I know a lot of New Yorkers who are worried about Mayor De Blasio, worried that after three terms of Bloomberg and two terms of Giuliani, de Blasio might make New York a less hospitable place to live.

What do you tell those individuals, because I'm sure you hear from a lot more of them than I do?

BLOOMBERG: Well, I -- my memory may be faulty, but I don't think it is.

Twelve years ago, when I got elected, there were a lot of people that said, oh, he could never keep us safe the way Giuliani did. And, in fact, Rudy brought down crime dramatically, and we took that and we brought it down dramatically again more.

And so you never know. And I'm optimistic. I'm sure everybody is not going to be happy with every decision that Bill de Blasio makes and they're not happy with every decision I made. TAPPER: So, across the river in New Jersey, Governor Christie, last night, was reelected in a blue state with 60 percent of the vote.

What lessons do you think Republicans, your former party, should take from his win?

BLOOMBERG: Well, I think what -- the lesson for this whole country, whether it was Christie or McAuliffe, both of them were centralists. They could work across the aisle. They understood that democracy is coming together to create something that's great for every -- for most and OK for the -- those that are the outliers.

And being a -- an obstructionist or being a radical, the voters rejected that in both cases.

TAPPER: There were some initiatives last night on marijuana that I want to get your reaction to.

Colorado will now tax the drug. Portland voters in Maine approved legalizing recreational marijuana for residents 21 and older. There have been some medical marijuana bills that have gone through the state legislature.

Do you think you could ever support legalization of marijuana?

BLOOMBERG: Probably not.

I think it's a bad idea. If you don't -- if the dealers can't sell marijuana and make money, the bad guys are going to sell more drugs that and much more potent. If people use marijuana, after a while, they're going to say, well, I'm not getting the kick I want and they'll move toward prescription drugs, which are a big problem across this country, or things like crack and cocaine.

TAPPER: Lastly, Mr. Mayor, what role do you think you're going to be playing in the 2016 elections?

I have a tough time imagining you just going softly into that good night.

BLOOMBERG: Well, one thing I can guarantee you, I will vote.

TAPPER: But you will be playing some role, one would think, whether it's activism and perhaps some other role, running, perhaps, for some sort of office.

BLOOMBERG: Well, I -- let me guarantee you two things. Number one, I will vote. And, number two, I won't be running, in terms...

TAPPER: You won't be?


BLOOMBERG: ... in terms of something in the middle.

It depends who's running and whether I want to support them, whether I want to get involved. I've got a lot of things to do. I'm looking forward to, starting January 1, I'm going to take a quick vacation. And, already, I've got more things to do, going forward, than I can handle. In fact, I've got to start learning how to say no to new things.

TAPPER: Mayor Bloomberg, thank you so much.

Coming up next on THE LEAD: There are now more places where you can smoke weed, no prescription necessary. Are bigger cities like New York and Washington, D.C., next?

Plus, what does Marco Rubio, a potential contender himself, think of Chris Christie in 2016? Well, we caught up with him and we asked. And let's just say the Republican senator doesn't necessarily believe, as goes New Jersey, so goes the nation -- coming up next.


TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD.

Just in national news, it was another grilling on the Hill today. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius told Congress that the government needed to fix hundreds of problems with the

We're now learning that you'll have one less set of hands to tackle those issues. The chief information officer for CMS Tony Trenkle, who was in charge of the technology of the federal agency that developed the Web site, has announced that he is retiring from the government and taking a private sector job. No word yet if Trenkle is being pushed out for his role in the site's development.

Now for the buried lead, that's what we call stories that we think are not getting enough attention -- don't be surprised if you hear Snoop Dogg buying a summer home in Portland, Maine. Last night, that city became the first city to, quote/unquote, "legalize marijuana", as did three communities in Michigan, including the city of Lansing. These areas are following in the footsteps of Colorado and Washington state which both voted to legalize recreational drug use last November.

But what makes these city decriminalization laws a little different is that they essentially made something that was legal that was never illegal under city statutes to begin with. It's a little like saying, let's make eating legal in our town. It was never illegal.

But by passing these proposals, cities and towns may have a stronger leg to stand on in their efforts to change state laws that make it illegal to smoke pot.

No wonder the movement is gaining some momentum, according to ArcView Market Research. The legal marijuana market is worth almost $1.5 billion nationally and it's expected to top $2.3 billion by next year. That's a 64 percent increase, faster than the market for smartphones, according to "The Huffington Post."

Our next guest is Mark Kleiman, a public policy professor at UCLA. And he says, don't be surprised given the current trend if pot is legal nationwide in five years.

Mark, thanks so much for being here. We appreciate it.

As you heard, we interviewed New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg a few minutes ago. He called legalizing pot a bad idea. He says he thinks it will make drug dealers offer more potent drugs to make up for whatever money they lose for marijuana sales.

What do you say to that?

MARK A. R. KLEIMAN, PUBLIC POLICY PROFESSOR, UCLA: It's an odd brand of economics. So on what theory are drug dealers who have a market or some other drug not offering it simply because marijuana is legal? I can't make any sense out of that -- that concern.

And then the next thing the mayor said was, well, people who smoke pot will then use more potent drugs. Again, no evidence of that.

The big question that he don't answer and nobody has an answer to is whether or not making it legal will get fewer people to drink heavily. If it does, that would be a big deal. If it leads more people to drink heavily, that would be a bad thing. And the honest answer about most of this stuff is we don't know, and anybody said he does know he's bluffing.

TAPPER: The latest Gallup poll, Professor, shows 58 percent of the American people favor legalizing marijuana. Do you think given the swell of support that more focus needs to put on how to make legalization work rather than debating whether it's a good idea? I mean, has the train left the station and now should we just be worried about safety for the train?

KLEIMAN: I think that's right. There are lots and lots of questions that the state has to decide and eventually the federal government will have to decide. The current train that's leaving the station is commercial legalization pretty much on the model of alcohol and tobacco. Those seem to be like two very bad models to follow and I think we ought to be able to do better.

But the piecemeal state by state approach rules out what I think is the best solution, which would be to have cannabis distributed by state agencies rather than by for profit private entity. But you can't do that while cannabis is illegal nationally since state officials can't be told to break federal law.

TAPPER: Colorado --

KLEIMAN: I would like to get this out of the hands of the initiative writers and into the hands of the legislators. I'd like to do it nationally and I'd like to do it calmly. I don't think I'm going to get any of those things.

TAPPER: Colorado recently passed a law to tax marijuana sales at a rate of 15 percent. Do you think that's a good model to follow for other states considering legalizing marijuana? KLEIMAN: Unfortunately I don't. There are two problems with that tax. One is the rate is too low and the other is that it's a set of the fraction of the market price and the market price is going to fall with legalization, probably dramatically. What you'd like is a tax that rises as the market price falls to keep the price to the consumer more or less constant.

So, I'd like to have an excise tax on THC, which is the main activation in cannabis and adjust that from year to year. But that's not -- not the direction Colorado went in, not the direction that the Washington state went in. And again, if you're putting something up to the voters, it has to be something you can explain in a 30-second spot. And more complicated proposals aren't going to do very well in that context. TAPPER: All right. Fascinating stuff.

Professor Kleiman, thanks for joining us. It's like the whole country is changing and nobody in Washington, D.C. is aware of it.

Let's check in in our political panel in the green room.

Kevin Madden, I hope you don't mind me saying this, that while you may have a great head of hair, you've got nothing on Dante de Blasio's afro.


TAPPER: Featured prominently here during the family's signature smackdown dance from last night's victory party in New York. Could we see the young de Blasio singlehandedly bring back big hair?

MADDEN: I think, yes.

TAPPER: And if so, are you on board, my friend?

MADDEN: I am. I think Dante is going to do for big hair what Jackie Kennedy did for pill box hats. Truly -- and what Jake Tapper did for pocket squares.

TAPPER: Very nice.

MADDEN: Nobody ever wore pocket squares until you did.

TAPPER: That's right.

We'll take a look at the real implications of election night, not just the follicle ones when THE LEAD continues.


TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.

Our politics lead now.

Despite being a diehard Springsteen fan, he's now being talked about as if he's the new Dylan of the GOP, the man who could potentially put the White House back in Republican hands. And after a landslide victory in New Jersey last night, all the fresh speculation isn't weighing Governor Chris Christie down.


GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), NEW JERSEY: You've got to have a huge ego, right, to, oh, please, it's such a burden for you to be speculating about me being the leader of the free world. Stop, I'm so burdened. I mean, you know, that's a pretty huge ego.


TAPPER: Humble as though that sounds. Could Christie really be the new Republican savior? If that question sounds over the top, I should remind you, that's exactly what "Time" magazine was saying about this other Republican rock star, Senator Marco Rubio of Florida in a cover story they ran just eight short months ago.

So, what does Rubio think of Christie's meteoric rise?

Well, CNN's chief congressional correspondent Dana Bash just asked him.


DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Is Chris Christie a viable candidate for president in 2016?

SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R), FLORIDA: Well, I always shy away from all the speculation. That's a decision he has to make. He's certainly a governor that's been re-elected in a big state that gets a lot of attention. That alone --

BASH: Would he be a tough competitor?

RUBIO: Oh, he's a tough competitor no matter what he decides to do. And I like Chris Christie. I have a pretty good relationship with him. And I congratulate him on his win.

But I think it's important, I know everyone wants to jump to what it means for the future, because that's what political reporters do, but I think we need to understand that some of these races don't apply to future races. Every race is different. It has a different set of factors.

But I congratulate him on his win. We need as many governors as we can get.

BASH: But are you saying that his win in a blue state like New Jersey wouldn't translate to more of a red state or more of a swing state?

RUBIO: Well, every -- look, every election is different. I think what would translate across the country is a message that goes to people and says this, look, we know you're struggling, we know you're trying to get ahead. You're doing everything that's been asked of you and yet your life doesn't seem to be getting better. The only way we're going to make it better is if we abandon the policies of big government and embrace free enterprise and limited government.

I think Chris Christie is trying to make that argument in New Jersey. I think Ken Cuccinelli made that argument in Virginia. It worked in one place. It didn't in another because of factors particular to those states. But on a national level, I think that's a winning argument no matter who our nominee is in 2016 and certainly for our candidates running in 2014.


TAPPER: Along with Dana, I am joined now by former senator from Arkansas, Blanche Lincoln, chairwoman of the It's My Business Coalition, and CNN political commentator and Republican strategist Kevin Madden.

So, Dana, that was an interesting answer.

BASH: Sure was.

TAPPER: From Marco Rubio. Oh, I love Chris Christie. You can't judge anything by New Jersey, not by New Jersey.

BASH: New Jersey, New Jersey, New Jersey.

TAPPER: Yes, the elbows are really out already.

BASH: But he likes him a lot. They're good friends, and they'll be tough competitors. Yes, absolutely.

Look, the bottom line is that right now, as you just very nicely displayed there, Chris Christie is the flavor of the month. And he did prove that he could win.

And the truth is, he proved that he could win with some of the very demographic groups that Rubio is talking about and has been talking about needing to pull back, like the Latino vote, 51 percent. Now, it's a pretty big deal that he got that even in a blue state like New Jersey.