When President Barack Obama came out recently and said that marijuana was no more dangerous than alcohol, as usual he was playing fast and loose with the truth. Actually, marijuana is far less dangerous than alcohol. To prove that, let's look at the numbers.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report annual deaths from alcoholic liver disease and direct alcohol poisoning at more than 40,000 every year, and that doesn't even go into the deaths caused by drunken driving and alcohol-related violence. Not one death has ever been attributed to marijuana use.
The Florida Legislature is currently debating a bill that would allow marijuana to be used medically to treat individuals with uncontrolled seizure disorders. This contradicts the past 40 years of marijuana policy, which stated that marijuana has no medical value.
Marijuana does have medical value, and the federal government knows it. The Department of Health and Human Services holds patent No. 6630507, which asserts that marijuana is effective in treating a host of neurological disorders including Parkinson's disease, Alzheimer's and strokes. But research into the many uses of this plant are hampered by laws that are based on propaganda, not facts.
The U.S. Congress should move quickly to reclassify marijuana so that medical research can move ahead unhindered. The Florida Legislature should pass the Cathy Jordan Medical Cannabis Act, which will allow marijuana to be used to help seizure patients, as well at those suffering from cancer, HIV/AIDS, Parkinson's and other conditions.
I urge every Florida voter to go to the polls this November and vote yes on Amendment 2, the medical marijuana amendment. Citizens must take matters into their own hands if and when our politicians refuse to act in our best interests.
Ward Hegock, Ocklawaha
Two sisters hit by car on walk to school March 19
Build an elevated crossing
The purpose of this letter is to respectfully propose a solution to the problem of students and other pedestrians safely crossing Hillsborough Avenue near Middleton High School.
The area between 22nd Street and 30th Street N is a dangerous strip of Hillsborough Avenue to cross on foot. I propose the building of an elevated pedestrian bridge crossing Hillsborough Avenue (north and south) somewhere in that area in order for pedestrians to safely cross. This would serve not only Middleton's students but all citizens walking in this area.
For the greater good, we can do this, we should do this and, with the right political push, we can get this done. I invite and challenge Tampa's elected officials to champion this cause.
Mike Mistretta, teacher, Middleton High School, Tampa
To spur innovation, cut stifling regulation March 25, commentary
Stop crony capitalism
Sen. Marco Rubio was recently vexed that he could not use the Uber car service that is available in Washington and other cities across our nation. I agree that there are stifling regulations at all levels of government. Members of Congress put in place many of these regulations to protect the major corporations that do not want smaller and nimbler competition. Members of Congress, state legislatures and county and city officials wrote these regulations to protect campaign contributors and to stifle competition. Our free-enterprise system resembles crony capitalism, as federal and state legislators pick winners and losers in the U.S. economy.
It is unfortunate that Rubio chose only one example to discuss a problem that occurs every day in the halls of Congress and in Tallahassee to stifle the free-enterprise system he champions on behalf of a single company.
J. Pratl, Spring Hill
Regulations have reasons
As I understand Marco Rubio, he would like for Florida to allow the operation of unlicensed taxis. I think this is a very bad idea. I took an unlicensed taxi overseas once. I will never do that again.
I allowed somebody who presented himself to me as a taxi driver to take my bags from the airport carousel into his car. His car was not marked as a taxi. He drove me all over the city, through some very rough-looking neighborhoods. I was completely disoriented and lost. The driver also offered to get various illegal forms of entertainment for me. I was afraid I was being kidnapped. Obviously, I was very relieved to get out of the car. I would add also that the ride cost considerably more than I paid the licensed taxi to return me to the airport a few days later.
There are reasons businesses are regulated. Taxis need to be inspected and taxi drivers need to be vetted.
Ralph Kerr, Land O'Lakes
Exhibit A: Cuban embargo
Sen. Marco Rubio is like Don Quixote with his indignation about regulations stifling innovation with an app-based car service. When I read, "at the federal level, there are regulations that have not been touched in decades" and "these kinds of regulations make no sense and negatively affect companies of all sizes," I immediately thought of the 50-year-old failed Cuban embargo that our junior senator supports. The Cuban travel and trade ban negatively affects regional synergy for the Florida tourism industry and directly hurts port and export job creation.
As an entrepreneur in the travel industry, I understand that regulations about commercial insurance and licensing of taxis are meant to protect passengers and pedestrians, like the 6-year-old killed by a Uber driver in a San Francisco crosswalk. Commercial entities carry $1 million to $5 million insurance limits, and county fees paid by limos and taxis support airport and port operations.
Rubio's simplistic support of the concept of unregulated ride-sharing is ill-placed as a talking point about business regulation when he is partially responsible for the state of Florida still being hurt by a 50-year-old ban on trade and tourism with our closest island neighbor.
John Rice, Tampa
Picking and choosing
Sen. Marco Rubio had a long rant about the startup company Uber, saying, "oftentimes big government is an impediment to people who are trying to make it." There is a much better example of government standing in the way of an upstart company — Tesla. The New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission rushed through a new regulation that mandates that all new car dealers get a franchise agreement. They join Texas and Arizona in banning the direct sales of the cars.
This is happening because dealerships want to protect their profits. Dealerships give a lot of money to politicians to keep their middleman position. This, and the fact that no Republican would dare say an alternative-fuel auto company was being treated unfairly, is probably why Rubio did not use the Tesla case as an example.
Scott McKown, Palm Harbor
This time, no excuses March 26, commentary
Look to the parents
Leonard Pitts often writes thoughtful and insightful columns. But his allegation of disparate treatment of African-American preschoolers was off base. It is not the innocent young child who is at fault. It is the parent who doesn't discipline the child and then whines when the day care cannot teach the child something that could and should have been learned at home.
Harriet P. Sherwood, Clearwater
Florida can do more
A report by the Environment Florida Research and Policy Center, "Moving America Forward," shows that even as energy-efficiency initiatives have helped Florida reduce emissions, the state could be playing a much larger role in reducing carbon pollution.
By using energy efficiently and by generating more power from clean, renewable sources, we are delivering a one-two punch in the fight against global warming. But we've only just begun to do what it will take to protect our children and future generations from the worst impacts of climate change. We need firm limits on carbon pollution in order to deliver a knockout blow.
The Environmental Protection Agency has proposed carbon limits on power plants that could build on our early success and give us a platform for an even bigger shift to clean energy.
We've seen that climate solutions work — now it's time for the next round. Our leaders can start by supporting the EPA's plan to limit carbon pollution from power plants.
Ashley Banta, Gainesville
Florida's over-50 boost March 26, commentary
State falls short for boomers
Economic common sense dictates that attracting boomers is integral to an area's bottom line.
However, as recently noted by Forbes, Florida is not among the top 10 places to retire due to the many hidden costs of living here (property taxes and insurance, for example). Locally, Tampa Bay offers primarily strip/large malls, lots of chain restaurants, and reliance on a car-centric system of ever-under-construction roads and highways (downtown St. Petersburg being an exception). In contrast, according to another Forbes list, boomers want accessibility that includes "the quality and scope of public transportation" and "a thriving (cultural)/social scene." By this standard only the Miami-Fort Lauderdale metro area qualified.
Unlike our parents, who wanted only sun, golf and early-bird specials, we want far more that Florida and Tampa Bay simply don't offer.
Terri E. Benincasa, Palm Harbor