Ithaca, N.Y. — In the third season of the hit HBO show “The Wire,” Baltimore police implement the de facto legalization of the drug trade within a few city blocks.

Learn how Ithaca Hummus makes its magic

[fvplayer src=”https://vimeo.com/118744863″ loop=”true” mobile=”https://vimeo.com/118744863″]

They call the safe zone for dealing drugs “Hamsterdam” after the Dutch city of Amsterdam, where pot is legal. The show writers appear somewhat ambivalent about Hamsterdam, but it does lead to a fall in violent crime and better access to health services for the addicts in the show’s fictional but lifelike world.

Like the writers of “The Wire,” Mayor Svante Myrick has frequently and publicly criticized America’s drug policy as being both inhumane and ineffective. Additionally, earlier this month Myrick announced a new effort this month to reinvent Ithaca’s approach to combating drugs.

Could something like “Hamsterdam” be brought to Ithaca as part of the mayor’s new approach?

The answer is no. At a panel discussion about the War on Drugs held at Cinemapolis on Monday, Myrick acknowledged that he’d gotten the question but said it wouldn’t be practical — or possible.

“I’ve had people concerned that I intended to build a ‘Hamsterdam’ in Ithaca,” he said. “But that’s not going to work.”

There are two main reasons Hamsterdam wouldn’t work in Ithaca, Myrick said:

1 — It’s not clear if it’s legal.

Because of the limitations of state and federal law, Ithaca doesn’t have the authority to issue a de facto legalization of certain drugs, according to Myrick.

“It turns out we can’t because we don’t have that authority,” he said.

2 — It would make a mess for Ithaca

Even if it was legal, it’s not clear if Hamsterdam would be effective, Myrick said.

Probably the biggest problem is that Ithaca would turn into a “tourist destination” practically overnight, Myrick said, for users.

“If you are the only island of rationality in an ocean of folks who intend to keep using the system … you would become a tourist destination,” Myrick said. “And that’s not going to work.”


Follow The Ithaca Voice on Facebook | Twitter

Jeff Stein

Jeff Stein is the founder and former editor of the Ithaca Voice.