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Saturday, Oct 25, 2014
Tom Jackson Columns

The Right Stuff: On pot heads, pot shots and popping off

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Tom Jackson’s conservative opinion column is published each Sunday. Read The Right Stuff on TBO.com at tbo.com/tomjackson.

Florida House Speaker Will Weatherford warned the other day about the ulterior motives behind the push to make marijuana available for medicinal purposes. Calling the ballot measure’s wording “disingenuous,” he predicted if the initiative succeeds, “We’ll have more places selling [pot] than we have Starbucks.”

The Right Stuff doesn’t know whether that’s completely accurate. Wouldn’t codifying the amendment’s language, if it comes to that, involve regulating the number and location of prescription pot dispensaries? Or would every corner pharmacy automatically qualify as a place to get hooked up? Either way, it’s hard to imagine the current push is anything less than a stalking horse to get weed legalized for recreational use, as already happened in Colorado and Washington state.

Isn’t it obvious? Proponents attribute almost mystical qualities to the relief cannabis delivers to people who suffer various ailments. So? Medicine long ago identified, isolated and replicated the active ingredients in marijuana. One component — THC, the high-inducing part of the plant — is available by prescription. Another, cannabidiol, is attracting a surge of support in state legislatures, including Florida’s.

What’s the point? The “medical” argument for marijuana is dubious. No responsible scientific studies exist to demonstrate that inhaling the smoke of burning cannabis (by far the most common method, advocates concede) constitutes the optimum delivery system, but data indicating the same risks associated with smoking tobacco (cancer, emphysema, pneumonia, heart disease) attach to toking up.

Nope. Amending the state constitution to allow prescription marijuana is all about setting the stage for outright legalization. And why not? Proponents are quick to make the “it’s-no-worse-than-alcohol” argument, but even if that’s true — it may not be — so what? Driving your car off a cliff is no worse than slamming a bridge abutment at highway speeds, but why would you encourage one just because the other happens?

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Much of the fury surrounding Jan. 13’s deadly theater shooting in Wesley Chapel swirls around the fact that Curtis Reeves Jr., the retired and decorated Tampa cop, brought a pistol to the movies.

Indeed, there’s every reason to believe that absent the gun, the worst likely outcome is Reeves and the victim, Chad Oulson, might be nursing fading bruises and shared anonymous embarrassment. Fair enough.

But be wary of your neighbors who would leverage anecdotes into policy, because just as soon as we are ready to enact stern new gun restrictions over what happened inside Theater 10 at the Cobb Grove 16, this happens (as reported by the Selma [Ala.] Times-Journal):

“ORRVILLE — Law enforcement officials are calling Marlo Ellis a hero in the wake of [the Jan. 16] shooting at the Dollar General.

“Ellis shot and killed Dallas County resident Kevin McLaughlin after McLaughlin entered the store, reportedly shouting and waving a gun. Authorities said as McLaughlin was [herding] a group of people into a break room, Ellis turned and used his own [concealed] pistol to shoot McLaughlin.

“McLaughlin was pronounced dead shortly after the shooting.”

Notably: A sign at the entrance makes it clear Dollar General disapproves of firearms inside the store, an arrangement that may have emboldened McLaughlin’s fateful activities.

So, upon which anecdote shall we create new weapons-wielding law?

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The Right Stuff does not pretend to understand the politics of the great state of New York.

That said, it must mystify even experts how to square New York’s ubiquitous Start Up commercials (bring us your innovative, your ambitious, your bold) and Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s through-the-looking-glass rant about just who is and is not a legitimate New Yorker. In short, mainstream conservatives “are just not who New Yorkers are.”

Meanwhile, there’s some question whether Gov. Cuomo appreciated the diversity of opinion among his constituents. If the unwelcome took him at his word, New York wouldn’t at last slip behind Florida as the third most-populous state, it might barely hang on to the top 10.

But the disrespected won’t, and in deep blue New York Cuomo probably will win re-election, and we’ll be reminded all over again just how much intolerance lefties are willing to overlook in pursuit and preservation of power. Sigh.

tjackson@tampatrib.com

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