Readers respond to "Smoke Signals"
Cannabis is an extraordinary herb—innocuous or beneficial to those who ingest it, but with the peculiar power to cause insanity in those who don't smoke it. It would be wonderful to see an end to the anti-pot witch hunt, but it won't happen soon, because marijuana prohibition has nothing to do with health or public safety, and everything to do with wiping out civil liberties and personal freedom. As the British poet Robert Graves observed in another context, you can't run an empire according to the rules of the old republic which it has superceded.
Dave Ferrell's article did a great job summarizing that it is not a matter of if but when marijuana becomes legal in the United States. The reasons mentioned are what advocates of legalization have been saying for decades: Primarily it is a foolish waste of tax dollars to spend another day on the road of weed prohibition.
My only question is whether there is such a thing as responsible marijuana use. In my experience there are two categories of pot users: those who buy it and those who do not. The people who don't buy may take a hit or two at a party and the next day get on with life without it. On the other hand, I've yet to meet anyone who buys pot who isn't a daily if not hourly smoker. Is there any middle ground, and how common are users who buy it and smoke it once in a while? A follow-up article interviewing and profiling various pot users would be very interesting and revealing. It is something we would see on a regular basis in the media once marijuana becomes legal. Showing all sides of marijuana use, including the very real likelihood of dependency, would provide some balance in the debate.
We need to be a lot more like Israel when it comes to airport security ("Million-Dollar Mistake," 1/13/10). Regardless of your opinion of the Middle East, they have been dealing with terrorism a lot longer than the U.S. and they have had a lot more success. An issue like this in Israel wouldn't have prompted an evacuation. They would have put the bag in a bomb-proof room and blown it up. Done. Easy. If we could turn our TSA around like them it would be a huge step forward.
Can I ask for a bigger tax refund based on the idea that since I haven't flown, I shouldn't have to have that percentage that goes to Homeland Security's TSA payroll?
Clarification on Park Board
It was disappointing to see the misinformation contained in your lobbyist story, and I hope you'll consider correcting it ("The 10 Most Influential Lobbyists in Minnesota," 1/20/10). In the meantime, I'll also share the following information with MPRB commissioners and senior staff to ensure they have the facts.
Fees: You misrepresented what the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board paid RMW for lobby fees. On January 11, per your request, I emailed you the 2009 fees the Park Board paid RMW, with the lobby and legal fees clearly distinguished. Your story was about lobbyists, and yet you chose to publish the 2009 total combined amount of $433,830, instead of using the accurate amount of $71,963 paid for lobby fees. Brian Rice does not receive a "salary" from the Park Board. His law firm receives a set amount of $70,000 plus expenses to act as the board's lobbyist. Your readers deserve to know that the $6-$10 million the park system receives each year in state funding actually costs in lobby fees a fraction of what you published. (On a side note—if you really wanted to be fair, you would have published the fees for the other lobbyists.)
Contributions: Citizens for Independent Parks was formed in 2009, not 2008. (On a side note—we were disappointed that you would publish "some in the city's political scene saw it as a naked power grab," considering that the independent group CFIP was formed as a result of an effort by several council members to abolish the Park Board. The City Council's efforts to control the Park Board date back to 1877 and continue today. I would be happy to share the facts with you. We're grateful that many Minneapolis residents understand the issue. I'm assuming at least some of your readers are among the 17,500 Minneapolis residents who signed petitions in support of the Park Board's independence.)
Again, I hope you will correct the record for your readers.
Public information and marketing manager, Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board
Matt Snyders: The dollar figures I included in the story are accurate. I focused on the total amount of money Parks and Rec paid Rice's firm ($433,830), instead of the designated amount for his "lobbying services" because the unusually large amount doled out to Rice's firm for "legal services" (which can include any and everything) is what has turned a lot of heads and is emblematic of his unusual clout.
Sommers is right that the CIR was formed in 2009, not 2008.
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