Tuesday, June 19, 2018
Opinion

Ruth: Temple Terrace parade rules over giant joint may be one toke over the line

Not to get all "Fiddler On the Roof" on everyone, but isn't tradition a wonderful thing?

You have traditions. We all have traditions. And for the past two years Temple Terrace has had a tradition during its annual Fourth of July Parade, which has gotten some people pretty annoyed. You might call this a tradition that simply won't blow over.

Fourth of July Parades generally feature marching bands and baton-twirling majorettes and Uncle Sams on stilts and, of course, the occasional waving, grinning pol running for one thing or another. It's all so Americana.

And since 2015 the Temple Terrace parade also has included a float featuring a giant smoking faux joint, courtesy of the Central Florida Chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws. Oh the Yankee Doobie Dandy of it all.

Needless to say, the presence of a billowing reefer in the parade has given many of the city's leaders the, uh, vapors.

So as this year's parade neared, the Temple Terrace City Council, never to be confused with the Knights of the Round Table, leaped into action to try to prevent yet another float of fake ganja smoke wafting over the tender sensibilities of the citizenry.

In an apparent effort to snuff out the reefer float, council revised the application for parade participants, requiring that displays "represent and support a patriotic theme which relates to American independence and the spirit of the Fourth of July."

Well that sounds very nice. But who determines what is and isn't "patriotic." Or put another way, how do we know that George Washington and Alexander Hamilton didn't while away those long, bone-chilling nights at Valley Forge passing a blunt back and forth while Martha was whipping up some Alice B. Toklas brownies by the bonfire?

Acceptable floats for the parade will be determined by Temple Terrace bureaucrats who will judge if the entry meets a standard of "... theme, artistic beauty, color, animation, special effects, originality, rider personnel and costumes and visual appeal."

Nice try. Who can deny a large, smoking marijuana joint doesn't at least rise to the level of theme, color, animation, special effects, originality and visual appeal? Or you could argue that attempting to craft language specifically designed to eliminate a single float could well be viewed as a one toke over the line assault on the First Amendment.

If the City Council thought it could snuff out the smoking cannabis float by cooking up a bunch of patriotic verbiage, it would seem Christopher Cano, executive director of the Central Florida Chapter of NORML, is one step ahead of the paper pushers.

Cano told the Tampa Bay Times' Philip Morgan his group's float this year will celebrate the theme of a 1942 World War II 14-minute patriotic film, Hemp for Victory, which was produced by the U.S. Department of Agriculture praising hemp farmers for creating strong ropes from the stalks of marijuana plants to assist the troops — possibly in more ways than one.

And this is the slippery slope one confronts when attempting to suppress a viewpoint. After all the parade also has included all manner of politicians, businesses and other groups advocating a self-serving message under the guise of an American flag.

It should also be noted Amendment 2, which called for the legalization of medical marijuana, was approved by 71 percent of Floridians. It probably got a few "Yes" votes in Temple Terrace, too.

And what is more "patriotic" than an election?

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