The interest in all this started July 25th when the Sun Post, a local free weekly newspaper, incorrectly wrote a story that attracted massive attention. The headline that read, “Beach voters get to vote on marijuana issues in November.” Seriously? The first paragraph said that Miami Beach voters will get a chance to vote on decriminalizing pot this fall. It went on to say that we would be the first city in Florida to reduce the penalty for possession to a $100 fine.
Wrong. All that the pro legal pot group got after presenting a petition with about 8,000 signatures was a straw vote. Simply put, a question where voters could say “yes” or “no” on their stand if a vote occurred at a later date on whether to legalize and decriminalize the use of medical marijuana.
So for the time being, if THC for medical or recreational use is your thing smoke where it’s legal or…
Steve Berke, who is running for Mayor of Miami Beach this November, is an outspoken supporter of the movement to legalize weed. He ran unsuccessfully against current Mayor Matti Bower in the last election. Berke is in a three-man race for the mostly ceremonial Mayor of Miami Beach job, running against Philip Levine and current Commissioner Michael Gongora. Berke, referred to as a comedian on his own website, is raising money via Kickstarter to film a documentary about our mayoral race and what he terms as “the most corrupt city in America.”
He is pro-pot legalization, very left of center, and very serious about the important issues facing Miami Beach. I interviewed him for this article. If it happens, his documentary will be called “Follow the Money,” his battle cry in the upcoming mayoral race. Obviously, he is critical of politicians he believes are trying to “buy” the election, namely Philip Levine.
In the late ‘60s I published an underground, alternative culture magazine in Coconut Grove called the Daily Planet. We did a cover story in a 1970 issue on pot with a headline that said “What Miami Needs Now Is A Good Five Cent Joint.” At today’s prices, I think it would be more like a $5 dollar joint.
All the millions of people in the late ‘60s and ‘70s who did the heavy lifting, and in many cases their ghosts, are rejoicing now. The advocates were mostly bad boy trouble makers who could always be counted on to make great copy included people like Abbie Hoffman, Jerry Rubin, John Lennon, (girl trouble maker) Jane Fonda, Ed Sanders of the Fugs, Allen Ginsberg, High Times founder and publisher Tom Forcade and so many more. In their wildest dreams, they never thought it would take 40-plus years before a U.S. citizen could walk down a street in America smoking a joint legally.
Well, today that’s possible in many places with more states coming online in 2014. South Beach and Florida will probably not be one of those places despite billionaire lawyer John Morgan’s (co-partner of Morgan and Morgan law firm) plans to have it on the State ballot in 2014. Morgan, whose firm is based in Orlando, has put his money where his mouth is. He continues lobbying with huge amounts of cash and many grassroots, no pun intended, followers. He is also rumored to be the money behind ex Florida Governor Charlie Crist’s quest for reelection in 2014.
Others say Morgan will prevail. After all, the last time Charlie was Governor, with help from Morgan, con man Scott Rothstein and other deep pocket backers he magically somehow allowed two casinos to open. People have still not unraveled how he did it. The “Just call me Charlie” Governor managed to let the Seminole’s open several Vegas style casinos like the Hard Rock in Hollywood and Tampa overnight. These casinos are taking so much cash to the bank in burlap bags—faster than they can count it, almost every hour 24/7…
This has been a big news week about marijuana. CNN’s mostly conservative in residence medical expert, Dr. Sanja Gupta, reversed an earlier statement that was totally anti-pot, period. It was huge news! Not only did Gupta do an about face, but CNN promoted his new stance by running promos and sound bites 20 to 30 times a day. His one-hour CNN highly coveted primetime special will have its premiere run tonight at 8 p.m. The documentary is simply called “WEED.” CNN will rerun the special almost daily for weeks to come. This will be worth watching, TiVo it.
But going back to Miami again, I’m afraid that even mere possession of the smallest amount of marijuana , if found guilty, is still a felony. City police have marching orders to arrest anyone caught with ganja. The policy, unfortunately, is not to “look the other way or issue a warning,” but instead the whole 9 yards: cuffs, arrest, holding cell, jail, bond (if you’re lucky enough), trial, plea, etc. Almost all Miami-Dade County Judges do not impose “hard time” if convicted, but a lifetime felony record sure can be a buzz kill.
Pot was classified a Schedule 1 substance 45 years ago. The good news is that 20 states and the District of Columbia currently have new laws on the books making medical and in some cases, just plain old use, legal. In California, Colorado and other places retail stores are open and selling dozens of pre-packaged varieties of weed. Commerce is active and sales are reported as “great!” To this date, the Feds have not challenged these laws and do collect taxes on sales. Mexican and Columbian drug cartels are pissed.
Unfortunately, other states’ laxer laws won’t be trickling down to Miami and Miami Beach any time soon…