70% say allow medical pot use | Feb. 27
The perils of medical marijuana
As a new Florida resident, after having spent the previous 7 ½ years in San Diego, I want to share my experience witnessing the effect that legalization of marijuana for "medical use" had on that city.
The California legal guidelines were lax, and the belief that the Obama administration would fail to curtail illegal activity on a federal level led to the proliferation of numerous storefront, neighborhood and downtown dispensaries of pot in various forms. Multiple ads appeared in local free newspapers stating that for a small sum one could obtain both a doctor's recommendation and a starter supply.
Entrepreneurs flocked to California. Similar action took place in Oakland, Los Angeles and Orange County.
Lucrative "grow houses" and dispensaries were taking in a lot of money. Since California does not tax medication, no benefits accrued to the state. There was increased vagrancy, street crime and robberies.
Eventually complaints from citizens resulted in federal action. Drug Enforcement Agency raids shut down some outlets, while others were evicted by landlords under threat of government confiscation of their property. Patients were not properly evaluated, much less followed, for their medical condition.
As a physician who has worked in the mental health and substance abuse field, I find that too little real knowledge about marijuana is available to the general public. This drug is an hallucinogen which affects the brain in the areas of judgment, memory, perception and vision. Effects on the young brain may be permanent.
Carolyn T. Kitchin, St. Petersburg
Sides dig in on the budget | March 4
We're still spending more
According to the president's speech before first responders, sequestration would bring disaster to the country unless Congress agreed to more tax increases. No firefighters or police officers will lose their jobs, however, because they aren't paid by the federal government but by local governments. At most, cuts may be made in federal first responder positions, which amount to 2 percent of first responders nationwide.
The president and his administration were the sole creators of the sequester. An objective examination of the timeline shows President Barack Obama 18 months ago creating sequestration and defending it ("no easy off-ramps to sequester," "I will veto any attempt to stop it," etc). He and Jack Lew, according to Bob Woodward in his book, arrived at sequester as a method that would have the Republicans capitulate to more income taxes in order to salvage the spending cuts in our military.
The Republicans gave the administration increased taxes at the beginning of 2013 with the promise by the president that cuts would follow. The president has reneged on cuts and is again asking for more income taxes.
The sequester cuts discretionary spending across-the-board by 9.4 percent for defense and 8.2 percent for everything else. But no programs are actually eliminated. The effect is to reduce the scale and scope of existing programs rather than to zero out any of them. In fact we will spend more this year than we did last year, increasing the deficit once again.
Salvatore Reale, Seminole
Politicians should pay too
Finally we have a statement from a U.S. senator that does not make us wince. I read that Sen. Bill Nelson has proposed that members of Congress return a portion of their pay equal to the greatest amount of any federal worker who is furloughed.
The 27th Amendment to the Constitution prohibits Congress from passing laws impacting their own pay. They are allowed to turn money back to the Treasury. You may have noticed many senators and representatives making a big deal of returning surplus funds from their office budgets. Now let's see them join the ranks of the people that they have impacted with this austerity budget.
John Ford, Trinity
Going from crisis to crisis
During the Libyan revolution a year or so ago, a news video showed a Western reporter asking a Libyan woman what her goals were for the revolution. She said, "I just want to live in a normal country." Me too.
There is an annual budget process. The Constitution requires that the House of Representatives originate all spending bills. Every viable enterprise — even local convenience stores — functions based on businesslike budgeting processes. Yet the American government lurches between self-created financial crises every couple months, while the managers of the national budget refuse to talk to one another. Sequestration is a total failure of our elected leaders.
The "no new taxes" mantra is not a principled stand for reduction of the deficit or shrinking of government, but a flight from taking any responsible action. Closing loopholes — special tax treatments — is not tax increase. Even across-the-board tax increases would be better than mindless sequestration with dogmatic refusal to participate in any discussion of a long-term solution to the deficit.
Doug Bevis, Zephyrhills
Aquarium optimism tempered in Tampa March 2
Property values and politics
Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn stated that attendance projections for the proposed Clearwater Aquarium should be halved. Does that statement also hold for a Rays stadium in downtown Tampa?
A Times article Sunday detailed the value of the present Rays stadium site in St. Petersburg as holding more value as a location for residential development. If so, why are we simultaneously being told that the downtown property in Tampa is best used as a site for a new Rays stadium?
Is downtown Tampa somehow different than all other urban centers across the United States, or is the public being fed conflicting stories simply as a means to the end of getting Hillsborough County residents to pay for yet another sports stadium?
Daniel Rapp, Tampa