Medical Marijuana, Disappearing Documents and Water Wars

The week that was in Northeast Florida

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Stoners Get Shit Together,
Become Productive Citizens. Man

Contra our own Wes Denham [Crime City, “The Myth of Medical Marijuana,” Dec. 11, 2013] — whose recent foray into the science of pot caused the lot of you to flood our inboxes with ALL CAPS MISSIVES about what ILL-INFORMED JACKASSES we are — it looks like, every so often, our bong-ripping friends are indeed capable of ambition, especially when said ambition involves (partially) legalizing the aforementioned bong-ripping.

To wit: Last week United for Care, the brain child of Orlando megalawyer and Charlie Crist patron John Morgan, announced that it has captured enough signatures to get a medical marijuana initiative on the November 2014 ballot, where polls show it’ll pass easily. An email the group sent out last week announced that its petition gatherers have garnered nearly 700,000 signatures, including nearly 100,000 in just the few days surrounding the group’s first Day of Action, on Dec. 14. (That doesn’t include numbers from the second Day of Action, on Dec. 21, which took place after we hit the eggnog and stopped caring.)

Then again, only a quarter or so — about 165,000, as of Dec. 18 — of those signatures have been verified, and the state requires 683,149 verified signatures by Feb. 1 to make the ballot. Even if all those sigs are legit, there’s still the matter of the Florida Supreme Court, which has to approve the ballot language. Earlier this month, you’ll recall, representatives of Attorney General and all-around buzzkiller Pam Bondi warned the court that the amendment’s loosey-goosey language will unleash a zombie horde of script-writing Dr. Feelgoods upon our unsuspecting public (and this would be a bad thing).

The court has until April to rule.

In the meantime, United for Care is still seeking signatures, and would still love to add your name to its rolls (unitedforcare.org). But be warned, reefer-toking degenerates: Wes Denham is judging you.

Um, What Documents?

Speaking of degenerates, let’s talk politicians. If you’ve not been following the ongoing saga of the League of Women Voters’ lawsuit challenging the congressional and legislative districts the Republican-dominated Legislature drew a couple years back, here’s a quickie primer: In 2010, in one of our citizenry’s few acts of electoral sanity that year — ahem, Rick Scott — voters approved two constitutional amendments prohibiting partisan gerrymandering, or the carving of districts to bolster one party’s political fortunes. And then the state’s Republicans lawmakers shrugged and did it anyway.

The LWV and its allies sued. As part of that lawsuit, they asked the Florida Supreme Court to order legislative leaders to turn over all documents — emails, text messages, voice messages, handwritten notes, etc. — related to those redistricting decisions. Legislative Republicans argued that these records should be exempt from public scrutiny. Earlier this month, the Court rejected that claim.

Oops, state lawmakers responded last week. Some of those records have already been destroyed. Sorry ’bout that.

“Any accusation that the Florida House of Representative [sic] thwarted the law and destroyed documents is completely false,” House Speaker (and Jacksonville University alum) Will Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel, declared in a statement. “… The opponents in this lawsuit have received thousands and thousands of documents. They should know better.”

To recap: Some documents that state Republicans didn’t want anyone to see documents that federal law required them to keep if there was even a chance they could be evidence in a lawsuit, by the way have now vanished into the ether.

How dare you accuse them of hiding stuff.

Get Your Own Damn Water

Central Florida, thanks to its various county governments’ long-standing acquiescence toward any developer who wants to line the exurbs with McMansions, is running out of water. Now home to 2.7 million people — not to mention tourists — a number projected to rise to more than 4 million by 2035, the region drains roughly 800 million gallons of water a day from the all-important Floridan aquifer, about half of which goes to irrigation, lawn watering and golf courses. To keep up, Central Florida will soon suck up 1.1 billion gallons a day.

That is, in a word, unsustainable. To put it in bureaucrat-speak: “Based on modeling results and the assessment of groundwater availability, it was concluded that fresh groundwater resources alone cannot meet future water demands in [Central Florida] without resulting in unacceptable impacts to water resources and related natural systems,” according to the Central Florida Water Initiative, an outfit comprising staff members from three state water management districts.

In other words, they’re screwed. And now they want to make it your problem.

Among the 139 suggestions in the group’s planning document are three that would drain water from the St. Johns River. This has Lisa Rinaman, the St. Johns Riverkeeper, livid. “It’s a horrible idea,” she says. “Their focus on withdrawing 155 million gallons a day [from the St. Johns] is irresponsible.” Any such withdrawals, Rinaman contends, would have deleterious effects on the river’s water quality — and all the things that depend on it. “They are not looking at the bigger picture, the damage being done to the St. Johns River,” Rinaman says.

The CFWI’s report dismisses such complaints, citing a 2012 study “indicating that the St. Johns River can be used as an alternative water supply source with minimal to negligible environmental effects.”

Nothing to see here. Move along.

Tags: medical marijuana, Florida Legislature, League of Women Voters, Florida Supreme Court, St. Johns River, St. Johns Riverkeeper
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