Why New York’s Top Cop Is as Phony as a Stoned Welsh Sheep

Published on May 30, 2016 · Last updated July 28, 2020

Two curious stories came across the news desk here at Leafly World Headquarters last week.

The first had to do with a herd of stoned sheep going on a psychotic rampage in a Welsh village. I know you are thinking Oh come on, but here is the actual headline in The Telegraph, which is an actual respected newspaper in London:

‘Stoned’ sheep go on ‘psychotic rampage’ after eating cannabis plants dumped in Welsh village

So I exaggerate not.

The Telegraph piece even had a photo of one of the sheep in question, wagging its tongue in a pose that indicated both wacked-out stoniness and a cheeky stick-it-to-the-man attitude.

Sheep image from The Telegraph

Image via The Telegraph

Because we all know what tongue-wagging means about a person’s consumption preferences.

A photo posted by Miley Cyrus (@mileycyrus) on

‘Nuff said.

The second story had to do with the leader of the New York City Police Department, Bill Bratton, who — well, read the New York Post headline yourself:

Bill Bratton blames drug violence in NYC on pot

Follow his reasoning if you can.

“Here in New York, the violence we see associated with drugs, the vast majority of it, is around the issue of marijuana, which is ironic considering the explosion in use of heroin now in the city,” the chief said Sunday on a local New York City radio show. “Interestingly enough, here in New York City most of the violence we see — violence around drug trafficking — is involving marijuana, and I have to scratch my head as we are seeing many states wanting to legalize marijuana, and more liberalization of policies,” he added.

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This is nonsense.

 The Atlantic’s ‘Failed’ Legalization Story is a Lie. Here’s Why.

Two years ago New York Mayor Bill de Blasio instituted a policy mandating that people possessing less than 25 grams (just under one ounce) of cannabis be given a ticket rather than arrested. Since then, cannabis arrests have plummeted. The effect on violent crime in the city has been zero. In 2015, NYC police recorded 1.2 percent fewer felony offenses than the previous year, a statistically insignificant change. There is no crime spike. In fact, violent crime in New York City has fallen by 35 percent since 2001, and by 80 percent since 1990. Where am I sourcing my data? The NYC Police Department. In Seattle and Denver, police data are showing that the only connection between cannabis legalization and crime is that many fewer people get arrested for possessing it. Crime rises or falls regardless of whether cops are arresting people for marijuana.

Blaming cannabis for a rise in crime — even one that the chief’s own data show doesn’t exist — is a time-honored ruse that dates back to New Orleans in the 1930s. Back then, voters were up in arms over a wave of vice sweeping the city. New Orleans District Attorney Eugene Stanley blamed cannabis. It wasn’t merely a mild intoxicant, he claimed; it actually caused crime. “Its use sweeps away all restraint, and to its influence may be attributed many of our present-day crimes,” he wrote. You can read Stanley’s insights for yourself here.

 Here’s Why Cannabis Legalization Doesn’t Lead to Higher Teen Use Rates

Which brings me back to the stoned sheep.

Kudos to the Telegraph copy desk. Killer headline. But when you read the story you discover that the suspect sheep have actually been roaming the village of Rhydypandy, in South Wales, for quite some time. Years, perhaps. They might’ve gotten lost since it’s Wales and the signs out of Rhydypandy probably say something like “Yr Wyddgrug y ffordd hon.”

For that or perhaps other reasons, the sheep are in foul temper. “They are getting in people’s gardens and one even entered a bungalow and left a mess in the bedroom,” moaned County Councillor Ioan Richard.

Whence the cannabis? Apparently somebody “fly-tipped” (illegally dumped) the remains of an illegal grow on the village outskirts. “I dread to think what will happen if they eat what could well be cannabis plants,” Richard warned. “We could have an outbreak of psychotic sheep rampaging through the village.”

Brookings Institute Report Denounces War on Drugs

Wait a minute. So you’re telling me that no sheep in Rhydypandy have consumed cannabis. And you’re not even certain it’s cannabis. It could be a rogue gang of kale for all you know, Ioan.

Oh, you’ve got a photo? Let’s have a look.

Image of "cannabis" via The Telegraph

Image via The Telegraph


Come on, Ioan. That’s a load of cracked stones mixed with elm prunings.

At the end of the day, we’ve got a cranky sheep (singular) pooping in somebody’s parlor, and a load of harmless junk left by the side of the road. No cannabis. No psychosis. In fact, if it had been cannabis, Coucillor, you might have been better off, as the ruminates probably would have enjoyed the leaves and then had themselves a nice long nap.

In fact, I’ll bet that’s not even a genuine Rhydypandy sheep. Hang on. (Googling.) Ah. There she is. Getty Images, photo taken by Chris Jackson, March 11, 2010, in Brecon, Wales, a solid 44 miles north of Rhydypandy.

Stock sheep photo by Chris Jackson on Getty Images

Image via Getty Images

Actually, I’m kind of impressed that you found a Welsh sheep for the image slot, Telegraph. Well done.

This is where we are in 2016. Local politicians, be they from towns large or small, are still relying on the boogeyman of cannabis to sow fear among their constituents, just as they have for decades. Only now it doesn’t work so well. Because we have this thing called the internet, which we can use to look up crime statistics, scientific research, and the Getty Images search engine.

So to Police Commissioner Bratton, and County Councillor Richard, we say:

Photo via Getty Images

Image via Getty Images

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Bruce Barcott
Bruce Barcott
Leafly Senior Editor Bruce Barcott oversees news, investigations, and feature projects. He is a Guggenheim Fellow and author of Weed the People: The Future of Legal Marijuana in America.
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