I’m not sure what Palm Coast City Council members have been smoking, but it can’t possibly be good. Their dealer in weedy thinking must be the Flagler Beach City Commission, which started this craziness locally, though they’re unfortunately not alone in Florida.
Two months ago Flagler Beach passed an ordinance that handles the presence of medical marijuana in the city as if it were a strain of the Ebola virus. The restrictions are laughable. Flagler Beach is forbidding anyone from standing, sitting or just hanging around a potential pot dispensary in the city, as if two or more people gathered in pot’s name could foment a coup. It wants a 2,500-foot buffer from schools, churches, day care facilities, public parks and any other dispensary, because health joints and strip joints are really indistinguishable. And, get this: no drive-through service. So it’s OK to clog our arteries and slurp diabetes at McDonalds’ drive-through but god forbid we should treat the diseases at a pot drive-through.
Mind you, the stuff hasn’t been legalized yet, though Floridians seem to support medical marijuana by a 9-1 margin, making the passage of the proposed constitutional amendment in November more than likely. Flagler Beach is among the few cities that are taking the reefers by the horn and passing prohibition-like ordinances ahead of time. Palm Coast appears eager to do the same soon.
There are innumerable problems with that. Let me just cite three. First, if 90 percent of Floridians want medical marijuana, five moralists on a government board should not presume to stand in their way anymore than they should declare that gay marriage, once it’s legalized, and that will be very soon, can only be performed under an I-95 overpass at night, as long as the moon isn’t out.
Second, the amendment makes very clear that regulation is in the hands of the Department of Health, not local government. And it does so because it foresaw that letting local governments have at it would make a mockery of the amendment. Flagler Beach and Palm Coast are exhibits Cheech and Chong. Not that the state is showing itself anymore pro-pot than PolPot with its draconian regulations on that meager little Charlotte’s Web strain of marijuana it just legalized. If that’s an indication of how the leafier weed will be regulated after November, Sharia-inspired local governments have nothing to fear. The emasculation of the law will be done for them.
Third, and most importantly, medical marijuana is not a scourge, and its users should not be treated like you treat sex offenders, who also have to contend with those church-park-school buffers. Those who’d qualify for medical marijuana–and again, the state’s regulations on that score are, judging from the amendment’s requirements, going to be quite strict–are ill and need help alleviating their suffering. Let’s not double up on their aggravations with niggling harassment. Granted: many of the illnesses medical pot proponents say will be helped by weed have little to no reliable proof for their claims. But that’s mostly because the federal government prevents the sort of broad research that would buttress anecdotal evidence with fact. And what evidence does exist on certain illnesses shows pot to be a clear benefit in alleviating pain.
But even if the argument were to favor recreational marijuana, keeping the stuff criminalized is unjustified. Marijuana itself is far less of a danger to one’s health than alcohol or tobacco. And if the choice is between getting drunk and getting high, potheads wins every time: they don’t go on violent rampages, they’re more likely to offer their wives foot-massages than beat them, they’re not nearly as dangerous behind the wheel, and their body will be more grateful than damaged.
Marijuana’s problem is not marijuana. It’s misinformation. Coming around a few decades too late, The New York Times has spent this entire week devoting a series of epic editorials arguing that marijuana, not just medical marijuana, should be legalized, that marijuana laws are racist, pointlessly costly and misinformed, and that a society that celebrates drinking and tolerates smoking has not a twig to stand on by keeping marijuana criminal. Or marginal.
But the misinformation is so ingrained and so embarrassing that its purveyors, those same smug, self-righteous know-nothings who are passing these local ordinances, are indistinguishable from the Inquisition that declared Galileo a heretic for claiming that earth revolves around the sun. It took the church 400 years to come to its senses, as Pope John Paul II did in 1992 when he offered regret at the way Galileo was treated. He must have had a good hit of Lebanese hash before that divine revelation.
Let’s hope the dope heads waging war on marijuana realize a bit sooner that they have no business cross-dressing as Grand Inquisitors.