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Smarting from parade's pot float, Temple Terrace council pushes back

Members of the Central Florida Chapter of National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, or NORML, pose with their Fourth of July float and its controversial large joint.

Courtesy of Christopher Cano

Members of the Central Florida Chapter of National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, or NORML, pose with their Fourth of July float and its controversial large joint.

TEMPLE TERRACE — A parade float carrying a smoking marijuana cigarette carried a blunt message: Reconsider your opposition to medical marijuana.

It was the second time the 10-foot joint made an appearance at the Fourth of July parade in Temple Terrace, once again the work of NORML, the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws.

But if some members of the City Council have their way, it may the last.

"I don't know about you guys, but I got about 10 emails today, saying, 'What are you guys doing in Temple Terrace?' " Mayor Frank Chillura said during Tuesday's City Council meeting. "And my 15-year-old, at the parade, goes, 'What are you guys doing? There's a joint on a float out there.' I mean that's just totally irresponsible, sends the wrong message. It is embarrassing.''

Chillura said the council may want to consider asking parade sponsor the Temple Terrace Chamber of Commerce to reveal its list of floats in advance, "so that things like this do not happen, and then it's a reflection upon the city.''

For Ellen Snelling, chairwoman of Hillsborough County Anti-Drug Alliance, the float had no business at a parade attended by children and families.

"I have a huge problem with a smoking blunt in a parade," Snelling said. "I think just their float without the blunt would have been fine."

Last year, advocates campaigned to pass a failed November ballot measure that would have legalized medical marijuana in Florida. Another measure is the Nov. 8 ballot, to legalize medical marijuana for people with debilitating medical conditions as determined by a licensed state physician.

The float is meant to educate families and children about medical marijuana, said Christopher Cano, executive director for the Central Florida Chapter of NORML.

"We're trying to normalize cannabis culture," said Cano, 32, one of about a dozen people who accompanied the float. They included families, he said.

Some people need marijuana to help control seizures and deal with chemotherapy treatment.

"No one should be shamed for using their medicine," he said.

Last year, advocates campaigned to pass a failed November ballot measure that would have legalized medical marijuana in Florida. Another measure is the Nov. 8 ballot, to legalize medical marijuana for people with debilitating medical conditions as determined by a licensed state physician.

Cano noted that people with the float in front of him were handing out plastic beads with decorative beer cans attached. And last year, a float was handing out Confederate flags, he said.

"It's not like we were throwing out joints," he said. "We continue to be the type of organization that supports families."

NORML plans to return to the Temple Terrace parade with its float next year, Cano said.

But councilmen Eddie Vance and David Pogorilich joined the call to investigate whether it should, suggesting the city check with other parades that turned down NORML's application.

"We do have a lot of children along the parade route,'' Pogorilich said. "I just think they (NORML) can get their message out in a better way without being so in-your-face.''

Contact Ariana Figueroa at afigueroa@tampabay.com or (813) 226-3350. Follow @ArianaLFigueroa.

Smarting from parade's pot float, Temple Terrace council pushes back 07/06/16 [Last modified: Wednesday, July 6, 2016 7:01pm]
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