Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Pot Injustice Pervades Public

The city of Wilton Manors has decided they will not oppose my law firm’s sign being placed on a Wilton Drive Bus bench.

Society is safe, thank god.

If you missed the controversy last month, Wilton Manors had initially forbidden my bench ad because of the pot leaf in it (see below). If you are “busted,” you are encouraged to call the Criminal Defense Law Center of South Florida, which is the fancy name I have given my law firm.

My law office partner, Russell Cormican, and I, decided to advertise the firm’s new name and logo, and our move to a new office in the Legacy Bank Building. Often, we represent good people charged with criminal acts because of stupid laws, which long ago should have been discarded.  None are more glaring than those arrested for the use of marijuana.

Take Elvy Mussika, a Hollywood woman who grew and smoked her own pot in order to counteract glaucoma, which was causing her to lose her eyesight.  After 23 operations to remove cataracts, she discovered that the THC in marijuana reduced the intraocular pressure in her eye canals, enabling her to see without surgery.

 Faced with a cultivation charge 25 years ago, in 1987, she challenged the State of Florida, saying she had a constitutional right to see, and argued her possession and use of marijuana was lawful, based on medical necessity. A jury agreed, 24 years ago today, and we won the case. Now, Mussika is one of many activists who will attend the Seattle Hempfest this weekend. In fact, far away in the northwest corner of the United States, over 150,000 pot warriors will gather at Myrtle Beach State Park in Elliott Bay to demand the legalization of marijuana.

One of the people that should be there with her is Boynton Beach resident Robert Platshorn, 69, the leader of The Silver Tour, fighting to educate senior citizens about the medicinal uses of marijuana — how it is an alternative to traditional therapies, with less residual consequences. In 1987, he was in jail.

Unfortunately, Platshorn served the longest sentence in America for marijuana — over 30 years — but he is still a victim of America’s drug war. Still under federal parole supervision, it seems that the government is now questioning his right to attend festivals promoting the decriminalization of marijuana.  He is working for drug law reform. The federal government is insisting on drug war compliance.

Like Elvy Mussika, Platshorn will eventually prevail, because Truth cannot be suppressed or silenced by government agents acting foolishly. It blows up in their face and Justice eventually emerges. If you want to help fight for Platshorn’s cause, you can go on Facebook and help fund his remarkable video, “Should Grandma Smoke Pot?” You can write to the Parole Commission and tell them to let him travel. And you can read his book, The Black Tuna Diaries.

Unfortunately, the national media does not adequately cover the marijuana activist movement in America. If it did, you would know that over 18 states in America and the District of Columbia have decriminalized marijuana.

You would also know that in each and every place where a decriminalization bill gets on a ballot, it wins — almost everyone today 35 and older has smoked pot, and everyone 16 and older is willing to try it. And Platshorn is showing how marijuana is medicine for seniors.

In different decades, both Mussika and Platshorn have stood alone fighting battles against injustice and a legal system that has been far too harsh and cruel to marijuana smokers. Though 25 years apart in their dilemmas, they are inextricably woven together by a thread of injustice fostered and furthered even today by the Obama Administration.

In California, medical dispensaries for marijuana users have proliferated by virtue of local ordinances and state laws allowing for the same. Sadly, tragically, and I dare say moronically, the Obama Administration has engaged in an all out war on those dispensaries and lawfully licensed businesses.

Disregarding the people’s will, the U.S. and its Department of Justice have raided the establishments, seized the inventory of medicines that were going to be provided to patients, and even arrested numerous owners who had in good faith opened businesses according to local laws.

As an activist who has spent 40 years fighting for the decriminalization of marijuana laws, I have found the acts of the Obama Administration unconscionable, unjust and unacceptable. It is flat out the reason why I will not support his re-election, despite his noble and forward record on LGBT civil rights. Gary Johnson, the former governor of New Mexico, is most likely to get my vote even though he has not gotten the national media attention he deserves.

Nationally, the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) is carrying on a battle originally engaged 40 years ago when its founder, Keith Stroup, first called for an end to prohibition by 1980. Locally, a small group of activists is petitioning the city of Miami Beach to decriminalize pot, but it is a strong and vocal chapter you can also find on Facebook, led by a middle aged mom, Karen Goldstein, who saw her own roommate once unjustifiably arrested for using marijuana while fighting a disabling multiple sclerosis.

When it comes to marijuana, there is injustice on every corner. So that sign on Wilton Drive is where it needs to be, and no city is going to tell me I can’t have it there as long as their cops perpetuate the inequity of the drug war.

The only danger facing a pot smoker sitting on that bench is not from the weed but from a speeding drunk driver who hits him while he’s just sitting there.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

City Tries to Snuff Out Pot Ad

A massage parlor can’t advertise on park benches in Wilton Manors — and now neither can I.
Here I am, the vice chairman of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML), and the city is telling me I can’t place an ad on a bus bench because it’s got a big pot leaf behind the text.
Here I am, a guy who has spent 40 years in the trenches as a criminal defense lawyer representing pot smokers, helping pave the way for 18 states to decriminalize marijuana, and our own little city of Wilton Manors now tells me that my ad is “objectionable.”
Hey, I did not mean to become the center of a news item. But now, a little ad that would have caught a few eyes is taking up a page in my newspaper. I guess I should thank the city, not bury them. But first, let me tell the story and the facts.
The City of Wilton Manors entered into a contract with Martin Outdoor Media a few years ago, allowing them to place 48 bus benches with professionally designed, commercial advertising on them in and about the city. No problem.
The city, however, imposed a restrictive condition on their contract with Martin, stating that “advertising of tobacco, firearms, massage parlors, adult book stores, adult theaters, adult escort services and pornographic or obscene matters are prohibited. The determination of objectionable, obscene advertising shall be the right of the City, and their decisions shall be final.”
My gut reaction at looking at that statute is how dare they presume that licensed massage parlors are presumptively obscene or offensive? But wait, it gets better.
I submitted an ad to replace the SFGN ad at the epicenter of Wilton Manors, on the Drive in front of the Alibi. The ad I submitted is to promote my other career, my law practice, the Criminal Defense Law Center of South Florida.
As you can see, the ad features the word ‘Busted?’ superimposed on top of a pot leaf. As is the nature of the industry, I am a lawyer who represents people who get busted. Note, I am advertising my law firm, not marijuana.
Nevertheless, our city, after meeting with the City Manager, the Leisure Services Director, Patrick Cann, has rejected my ad. They told Martin Media not to place it. They deemed it “objectionable.” They courteously and politely asked (told) me to cooperate with their advertising program, and requested me to “consider revising it.”
Cann, a nice enough guy, even added: “I greatly appreciate your consideration and would like to thank you for your support with the advertisement program.”
As I was writing this, Cann emailed me again to say the city isn’t actually saying I can’t do it, but ‘requesting’ I don’t do it.
Unfortunately, that does not hold water — they already told Martin Media they preferred not running the ad, and without the city’s approval, Martin Media won’t run it. In fact, the city said it was the “depiction of an illegal drug” in the ad, i.e., weed, that’s inconsistent with their objectives.
Well, here is the problem: I don’t agree or support the program as worded, and not just because I am bucking for a free massage from a wealth of licensed and legitimate massage therapists, who are getting screwed here, too.
First of all, I find nothing ‘objectionable’ about pot leaves. In fact, I love pot leaves. I wish I could grow them in my home in South Florida like I do in my apartment in San Francisco, where, as a surviving cancer patient, I have a grow license and medical marijuana card.
Second, the bottom line is that my ad does not violate the city’s contract. I am not posting something that is inherently ‘objectionable.’ What are objectionable for 40 years are the outdated laws that make pot illegal still. Marijuana has been decriminalized in 18 states, dozens of cities, and about 200 million Americans agree with me, but not Wilton Manors.
If more pot smokers came out of the closet the way gay people did, there would be less laws in America restricting pot possession. Hell, I just got back from Chicago, where their city council voted 43-3 to decriminalize the possession of small amounts of pot. As a guy who stands up for his clients, I sure as hell am going to stand up for myself. Like the country song goes, if you don’t stand for something, you will for anything. I won’t fall for this.
And I think this rule is beyond dumb that it’s almost comical.
It’s freaking 2012. There is a cable TV show called ‘Weeds.’ Presidents and pontiffs smoke the damn herb, and I bet there are plenty of residents of Wilton Manors who do as well.
Please, people are going to laugh about this while smoking a joint. Instead of focusing on building a parking lot in the center of the city, engineering economic development for its small businesses, and making its epicenter more pedestrian friendly, the city is worried about a sign with a pot leaf in it?
You have got to be kidding. I wonder if we drug tested every single one of our city employees, including commissioners and cops, for marijuana this week, how many would come up “objectionable.”
You make the call. Do you find the ad offensive? Should it be on a bus bench or not?
The back-and-forth with Wilton Manors is still on going as of press time. Check back next week and I’ll let you know how it all went down.