Pubdate: Sat, 09 Nov 2013
Source: Miami Herald (FL)
Copyright: 2013 Miami Herald Media Co.
Author: Fred Grimm


Two guesses why I've found myself standing mid-way down the aisle in
Home Depot, staring stupidly at an array of flappers, flush valves,
drip irrigators, bath tub levers, PVC piping and sump pumps, with no
memory of what I'm doing here.

Surely my forgotten mission has nothing to do with the "GoBidet
Ultimate Electric Bidet Seat," though the gadget does come with a
control panel with more offerings than a video game. A fellow could
stay occupied most of the morning running through the options.

The correct answer is: A) Because the old prefrontal cortex ain't what
it used to be.

Not such an easy answer to guess, given that portents of advancing age
- - chronic forgetfulness, aimless behavior, acquaintances' names
disappearing into the ether, inexplicable pleasure derived from
Seinfeld re-runs - are exactly the same symptoms attached to the other
option: B) Zonked out on Colorado SleeStax X Skunk.

But it can't be answer B. Because I don't live in Colorado, where 65
percent of the voters last week approved a 15 percent tax on sales of
pot, which the same electorate legalized in 2012 (along with voters in
Washington state).

I live in Florida, where the state leadership pretends public
sentiment about marijuana hasn't evolved since the days when young
Republicans were grooving to The Captain & Tennille on their
eight-track cartridges.

Last spring, in a burst of drug-war nostalgia, the Legislature passed
a quaint throw-back law (32-2 in the Senate, 112-3 in the House) that
outlawed sales of bongs and water pipes. In fact, selling any smoking
device is now illegal in Florida other than a pipe "that is primarily
made of briar, meerschaum, clay or corn cob." Which is such a peculiar
specification, it was as if legislators were puffing SleeStax X Skunk
before the vote.

Meanwhile, 20 other states and the District of Columbia have legalized
medical marijuana, eleven of those by statewide referendum. Most of
those passed by more than a 60 percent margin. Perhaps something
similar could happen in Florida, given that we're stuck with the most
arthritic, oh-my-aching-back/knees/elbows electorate in the western
world. A group called United for Care has collected 200,000 names on a
petition toward the 683,149 needed by Feb. 1 to get a medical
marijuana initiative on the statewide ballot next fall.

This has not pleased the state's attorney general, speaker of the
House and president of the Senate, who have demanded that the Florida
Supreme Court keep this measure away from the voters. Senate President
Don Gaetz complained the pot petition appealed "to voters by using
language that evokes emotional responses [that] are not appropriate
for ballot titles and summaries of proposed constitutional

Gaetz knows something about misleading ballot initiatives. As the
Herald's Rochelle Koff pointed out, Gaetz was one of the architects of
a blatant misnomer called the "Health Freedom Act," which was designed
to torpedo the Affordable Care Act. Last year, the state Supreme Court
said the Health Freedom act was misleading and needed to be rewritten.
It was. And voters rejected it.

Opponents of medical marijuana in Florida now have a new reason to be
worried. On Tuesday, 64 percent of the voters in the Miami Beach
municipal election favored legalizing medical marijuana. Granted, the
ballot question was a non-binding straw vote, but as my colleague Marc
Caputo noted, medical pot received 1,000 more votes than Philip
Levine, the winning candidate for mayor. Unlike for Levine, no recount
was necessary.

The Miami Beach vote alarmed establishment types. On Friday, the
Florida Sheriff's Association, the Florida Medical Association and the
Florida Chamber of Commerce fired off a news release announcing they'd
be joining the legal fight to keep the "ill-conceived" medical pot
initiative off the ballot. Because you just can't trust those damn

Florida's political leadership seems oblivious to a fast-evolving
public attitude toward marijuana. While Miami Beach was voting in
favor of medical marijuana, voters in three cities in Michigan and in
Portland, Maine, voted by overwhelming margins to decriminalize
possession of small amounts of pot. In October, a Gallup poll found
that 58 percent of Americans thought the drug should be legalized.
Straight legalization. None of this medical marijuana pretense. (Back
in 1969, when Gallup made its first query on legalizing marijuana,
only 12 percent said yes. Times have changed.)

Among Democrats and independents, more than 60 percent told Gallup
they favored legalization, compared to only 35 percent of Republicans.
Which might explain the bong vote in Florida last spring.

Republicans may either be lagging behind the times or they're simply
intent on protecting the private prison industry, a burgeoning force
in Florida politics not interested in any measure that would
depopulate those lucrative lock-ups. Besides, non-violent pot-heads
make such nice compliant prisoners.

Oddly enough, Colorado's conservative Republicans helped pass the
legalization measure last year. Former Republican Congressman and
famous right winger Tom Tancredo, in an op-ed piece before the 2012
election, argued, "Our nation is spending tens of billions of dollars
annually in an attempt to prohibit adults from using a substance
objectively less harmful than alcohol. Marijuana prohibition is
perhaps the oldest and most persistent nanny-state law we have in the

The additional measure Colorado passed last week will provide money to
regulate pot sales and provide an estimated $27 million a year for
school construction. Gov. John Hickenlooper (don't try spelling that
name after any SleeStax X Skunk) tweeted after the election,
"Marijuana, Cheetos & Goldfish all legal in CO. Now we'll have the $$
to regulate, enforce & educate."

That's very different from the attitude in Tallahassee, where Gov.
Hickenlooper's remarks may prompt our legislators to consider putting
Cheetos and Goldfish into the same contraband category as bongs and
pipes made of anything other than briar, meerschaum, clay or corn cobs.

Florida's anti-pot legislators might find solace in another finding in
last month's Gallup Poll. Some 53 percent of the respondents over 65
still oppose legalization. And we've got more than our share of cranky
oldsters in Florida.

Personally, I find the elderly's anti-legalization attitude a little
puzzling. Me? I'd endorse any policy that would send the young
wandering around Home Depot as befuddled as me.

Hey, we can all get together in the plumbing department and check out
those mesmerizing electric bidets.
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MAP posted-by: Matt