Archive for the tag 'between the lines'

Source: Hupu2 via Wikimedia Commons

Source: Hupu2 via Wikimedia Commons

“…Legalize it, yeah yeah, that’s the best thing you can do” – Peter Tosh, “Legalize It,” 1975

BETWEEN THE LINESStart spreading the news — the times they are a-changing and New Yorkers will soon be a little less anxious about getting high with a little help from their friends.

After more than 40 years, the winds of change have a distinct hint of marijuana blowing across the nation with legalization and decriminalization slowly taking effect. Though federal legalization is still a pipedream — soundly opposed by diverse pockets of resistance — on Election Day, Oregon and Alaska became the third and fourth states to legalize and regulate the commercial production and sale of marijuana for adults. What’s more, voters in the nation’s capital and in several cities nationwide decided to eliminate marijuana possession penalties.

New York City is set to join the expanding list of municipalities liberalizing archaic drug laws, which could end most arrests for low-level marijuana possession, with police officers directed to issue summonses without detaining the suspect.

As a matter of fact, New York City will now conform to the state’s 1977 Marijuana Reform Act, signed into law by then-Governor Hugh Carey. The statute calls for possession of up to 25 grams of pot as a violation, punishable up to a $100 fine for the first offense.

New York is actually one of eighteen states, including a few Republican strongholds like Nebraska and Ohio, that have decriminalized marijuana possession — with no prison time or a criminal record — for first-time possession of small amounts for personal consumption.

After 37 years, New York City cops will be directed not to exploit a segment of the act specifying the weed must be in public view to qualify as a violation. (Under the controversial stop and frisk policy, NYPD officers routinely demanded individuals empty their pockets. When they saw a joint, the concealed pot was suddenly “in public,” and, therefore, a crime.)

But don’t expect this subtle change to transform The Big Apple into The Big Reefer.

A substantial majority of baby boomers have either smoked or sampled pot. It could also be taken for granted that some of that generation’s politicians did a doobie now and then. Former Mayor Michael Bloomberg, former New York State Governor George Pataki, former New Jersey Senator and presidential candidate Bill Bradley and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, to name a few, have admitted smoking pot in their youth. Former President Bill Clinton did, too, but, without a smirk or a wink, noted he never inhaled.

One presumption hostile to legalization is that marijuana, which is much more intoxicating today than when it was the choice of trendy young adults years ago, leads to harder drugs. That’s as preposterous as proclaiming regularly consuming beer may lead to drinking more potent potables!

There was an unsubstantiated anecdote circulating in the freewheeling 60s that a major American university had conducted research in which lab rats were fed their body weight in marijuana over a 30-day period. Consequently, the drugged rodents showed a multitude of problems, leading to the conclusion that cannabis could result in similar effects to humans. The research seems scientifically questionable and patently unrealistic. Nonetheless, anyone capable of smoking their body weight in marijuana in a month would experience a relentless case of the munchies, not to mention likely turn acutely sick and impaired!

Anyone consuming their body weight of anything in a brief period, whether it’s water, broccoli, tofu, potato chips or Twinkies, would probably risk adverse side effects.

I’m not aware of any conclusive research asserting that smoking an occasional joint does more harm to the human body than a daily shot of liquor. Nonetheless, marijuana is criminalized, while alcohol supports multi-billion dollar businesses, from agricultural to advertising to your local saloon. On the plus side, if pot were legal, it could be a major source of sorely-needed revenue at all levels of government.

Even when comprehensive marijuana legalization was a long shot in the early 1970s, American tobacco companies supposedly seized an opportunity that was too good to miss. Big tobacco reportedly registered a bunch of brand names, such as “Acapulco Gold” and other pot-related monikers, so, if and when the substance was legalized, they’d be set to commence production.

More than a decade ago, a national substance abuse group reported that underage drinking accounted for one-fourth of all alcohol consumed in this country. Predictably, the alcohol industry rejected that estimate as “absolutely wrong.”

While continuing to preach “No” to illegal drugs, that message should similarly repudiate any addictive substance, including prescription drugs. After all, excessive abuse, in any form, is irresponsible behavior.

It is also time to admit the “war on drugs” was a disaster that was mostly waged domestically. Fighting the cartels that transport illegal substances to our communities may seem effective, every now and then, when there’s a major bust, but, by and large, the drug pipeline has scarcely been clogged. It has also damaged countless lives, overtaxed the criminal justice system and led to numerous incidents of corrupt law enforcement agents, excessive police tactics and exploitation of civil forfeiture laws.

Besides, you don‘t need a sociology degree to realize that criminal enforcement has disproportionately targeted minorities and low-income neighborhoods.

According to NYPD statistics, 86 percent of those arrested for marijuana possession through August 2014, were black or Latino. Yet, the 2010 census indicated those ethnic groups just comprise about 60 percent of the city’s population.

After the repeal of prohibition, America didn’t turn into a country of alcoholics. Consequently, modernizing marijuana laws would not result in the nation going to pot. On the other hand, it would end the inequitable imprisonment of tens of thousands for a minor offense, as well as boost federal, state and local treasuries.

With that in mind, toke ‘em, if you got ‘em. But, don’t Bogart that joint.

Neil S. Friedman is a veteran reporter and photographer, and spent 15 years as an editor for a Brooklyn weekly newspaper. He also did public relations work for Showtime, The Rolling Stones and Michael Jackson. Friedman contributes a weekly column called “Between the Lines” on life, culture and politics in Sheepshead Bay.

Disclaimer: The above is an opinion column and may not represent the thoughts or position of Sheepshead Bites. Based upon their expertise in their respective fields, our columnists are responsible for fact-checking their own work, and their submissions are edited only for length, grammar and clarity. If you would like to submit an opinion piece or become a regularly featured contributor, please e-mail nberke [at] sheepsheadbites [dot] com.

Source: _chrisUK/Flickr

BETWEEN THE LINES: Since the snow and ice evaporated, most drivers probably assumed maneuvering along city streets would be trouble-free. But now they have to deal with another aggravating upshot generated by this year’s severe weather — a plague of potholes. They’re not nearly as harsh as the 10 plagues God smite on the Egyptians in Exodus, but the proliferation of gaps and fissures in the pavement are, nonetheless, plentiful and problematical.

Under ordinary conditions the city’s roads are rough enough, but after two months of wicked weather and frigid temperatures, those thoroughfares have taken a licking and keep on cracking, creating one final winter souvenir — an obstacle course that scars our streets. Drivers who don’t avoid those fissures typically experience unnerving jolts or, worse, costly vehicle damage.

The only roads likely to be worse than our pothole-peppered streets may be those pitted with bomb craters in war-torn Afghanistan.

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Source: Francisco Daum / Flickr

Source: Francisco Daum / Flickr

BETWEEN THE LINES: It’s time to change — the time.

Daylight Saving Time (DST), the seasonal hourly change, commenced at 2:00 a.m. this past Sunday. Clocks, watches and other timekeeping devices, including computers and home video units, had to be reset one hour ahead — essentially shifting an hour of daylight from the morning to the evening until the first Sunday in November.

For those of you directionally dazed when it comes to fiddling with your timepieces, just remember — you ‘spring’ forward and ‘fall’ back.

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Photo by Roman Kruglov

BETWEEN THE LINES: New Yorkers warmly embraced a balmy weekend that likely thawed their chilled bodies and spirits. However, the forecast isn’t pleasant and looks like we’re in for Frigid Winter, Part Two. [Ed. – It was snowing all morning. We need this like we need holes in our heads.]

No sooner did Mother Nature tease us with a brief respite, with temperatures topping 50 degrees for three consecutive days, than we were alerted to a cold air mass heading south that will return temperatures below-freezing by mid-week.

Temperatures reached a high over the weekend not seen since it was a 55 on January 5, 2014 the day before the mercury nose-dived to a record low five degrees and frequently remained below freezing for the next six weeks.

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New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio. Source: Stephen Nessen / Flickr

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio. Source: Stephen Nessen / Flickr

BETWEEN THE LINES: With possibly the worst storm of the season, packed with heavy snow, sleet and rain racing up the East Coast, flights were grounded and government offices to the south of the city closed, but late last Wednesday Mayor Bill de Blasio and the Department of Education (DOE) decided that public schools would open the following day. Hours earlier, severe winter storm warnings and advisories had been issued from Georgia to Maine, with thousands of school districts closed ahead of the storm’s leading edge. But New York City parents went to bed dazed and confused, because public school students were expected to be in school Thursday morning.

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The Fab Four -- John, Paul, George and Ringo -- arrive in America at JFK. Source: Wikipedia

The Fab Four — John, Paul, George and Ringo — arrive in America at JFK. Source: Wikipedia

BETWEEN THE LINES: This past Sunday night, February 9, marked the 50th anniversary of The Beatles’ debut on “The Ed Sullivan Show.” A record 73 million Americans — more than a third of the U.S. population and considerably higher than the first Super Bowl TV audience three years later — tuned in. Some were habitual viewers of the popular weekly variety show. A sizable segment, no doubt, watched just to see what the fuss about four British lads was. But many viewers, largely pre-teen and teenage girls, were a legion of keyed up devotees, aware of the ruckus since the Liverpool quartet’s contagious pop songs became Top 40 radio staples in the weeks before their groundbreaking, two-set performance.

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Some seriously out of control jaywalking. Source: Brian Robinson (bhr1) / Flickr

Some seriously out of control jaywalking. Source: Brian Robinson (bhr1) / Flickr

BETWEEN THE LINES: Jaywalking, for those only familiar with the term from occasional segments on “The Tonight Show,” can have dire consequences. Jay Leno casually — and lawfully — “jaywalks” Los Angeles streets, seeking spontaneous responses to questions from pedestrians, which are then painstakingly edited to amuse his audience. But, the act of “jaywalking” in many cities is actually a traffic safety violation.

The term has existed for almost a century and refers to pedestrians unlawfully crossing a street at a designated crossing or at an intersection without regard for oncoming traffic. It likely became a low-level public safety ordinance after a surge of vehicular traffic, particularly in urban areas, where it has sort of evolved into a group sport.

Seasoned New York pedestrians may justify that “Don’t Walk” signals mean don’t cross when a vehicle approaches, so why not cross the street when there isn’t a vehicle in sight or, at least, a safe distance away?

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Source: What What/Flickr

BETWEEN THE LINES: There has been a succession of media reports over the last few weeks about pedestrians being sucker-punched by a single attacker or one among a group of passing youngsters. The series of episodes reported in New York and several other states are being carelessly referred to as “the knockout game.”

How the media can collectively — and blithely — keep referring to these sporadic attacks as “the knockout game” is absurd. Whether or not the youths responsible and law enforcement apply that reference is one thing, but for the media to repeatedly use the trendy vernacular is appalling and unnecessary, as it subtly glorifies that sort of violence.

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An original edition, from the author's personal collection, of the November 23, 1963 New York Times. Courtesy of Neil Friedman

An original edition, from the author’s personal collection, of the November 23, 1963 New York Times. Courtesy of Neil Friedman

BETWEEN THE LINES: The following is an excerpt from one of several speeches that Senator John F. Kennedy made in Brooklyn, on October 20, 1960:

I come over here to Brooklyn to ask your help. I run for the Presidency in the most difficult time in the life of our country, but with the greatest confidence, that if this country is given the kind of leadership which I believe it needs, if we are willing to go to work again, this country can meet any obstacle and can serve as an inspiration to freedom around the globe. So I come to Brooklyn to ask your help in this campaign, and if we are elected, we are going to go to work.

Today marks the 50th anniversary of the assassination of John F. Kennedy, one of the most alarming signposts in American history and a defining moment that echoes for many Americans over the age of 40, especially the post-World War II generation.

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Um, does it run Google Hangout? (Source: Alexandre Dulaunoy/Flickr)

BETWEEN THE LINES: Whether or not your candidate was elected, the end of the 2013 political campaign season surely delighted Brooklynites frustrated by months of annoying, unsolicited reaching-out-and-touching calls from local and citywide political campaigns.

Even if you added residential landline and mobile telephone numbers to the national Do Not Call Registry, which limits most telemarketing calls you’d rather not receive, politicians continue to bombard us with live and automated calls since they are exempt from the ruling.

It’s time to amend that regulation and punish politicians, like telemarketing violators, up to $16,000 per complaint! Well-financed campaigns could set aside funds to cover this, while those with smaller campaign chests can just continue the cut-rate alternative — stuffing our mailboxes with equally unwanted brochures and leaflets.

Some may insist it’s a Freedom of Speech issue, but that’s Bullshit — with a capital “B”! Politicians commonly support and enact legislation that specifically exclude them from rules and regulations that apply to the very same people who elect them to serve.

There’s little argument that one of the most appreciated byproducts of the technological age is the national Do Not Call list. For those who may be unsure how to stop telemarketers from inundating you with inconvenient calls, log on to www.donotcall.gov, and enter each of your phone numbers. Within 31 days, most, but not all, telemarketers are supposed to stop calling. Except for political messages. Like the Energizer bunny, they just keep coming and coming, particularly in the weeks and months before an election.

According to the Federal Trade Commission website, political solicitations are not covered by the agency’s Telemarketing Sales Rule (TSR) that was part of the 1991 Telephone Protection Act. Political spam, according to the regulation, is not considered “telemarketing.” Just more political skulduggery that sets elected officials apart from the population that elects them.

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