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- Legal marijuana issue creating strange bedfellows (4/20/17)
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License plate dispute accomplishes goal of spotlighting marijuana petition
Holbrook attorney Frank Shoemaker's attempt to place "NE 420" on the license plates of his van, and the Nebraska Department of Motor Vehicle's rejection, has brought on a lawsuit by the American Civil Liberties Union and a slew of comments on our website.
"Sixteen states and the District of Columbia have legalized some form of marijuana use," he said. "This is a conversation happening around the country, so how can Nebraska say it's illegal to even talk about it here?"
The problem is that the number 420 is associated with pot smoking, as a time, date or place to light up -- as well as a list of references ranging from a children's poem "four and twenty blackbirds, baked in a pie," to Hitler's birthday and the Columbine massacre.
That association probably doesn't do Shoemaker and other proponents of legalized marijuana any good; he has submitted a proposed ballot initiative to the Nebraska Secretary of State's office, which will need to collect valid signatures from 10 percent of the state's registered voters, or more than 112,800 before July 7.
No one is saying Shoemaker can't talk about the issue on his van; a photo accompanying the ACLU release shows it's already carrying a number of messages promoting the issue. It's just that the state has a policy against vanity plates that "express, connote or imply objectionable, obscene or offensive words or phrases."
Shoemaker's move has already achieved an important goal, drawing attention to the proposed ballot issue.
Proponents of legalization -- or at least decriminalization -- of marijuana contend that alcohol and tobacco are at least as dangerous as pot, and that the drug isn't worth the amount of taxpayer dollars being invested in law enforcement, prosecution and incarceration. Keeping it illegal only increases profit and power for drug cartels, they say, and deprives governments of millions of dollars of potential tax revenues.
Opponents have no shortage or arguments against marijuana as a health hazard, a gateway to more dangerous drugs, a profit center for criminals and, at a minimum, a drain on ambition.
But it does seem reasonable to at least place the issue before the voters so that the issues can be debated and voters can have a say in setting public policy.
Another promotion that probably won't do much for the pro-marijuana legalization cause is a Thanksgiving coloring contest, sponsored by a group called Moms for Marijuana.
The anti drug- and alcohol-abuse group, PRIDE-Omaha is warning that the Nebraska Moms for Marijuana is promoting the contest on its Facebook page.
While the group claims the contest is open to all ages, PRIDE-Omaha argues that few adults enter coloring contests.
"This contest is an outrageous affront to parents who are trying to keep their children drug free," said Susie Dugan, executive director of PRIDE-Omaha.
The dispute points out the most important issue related to substance use and abuse of any type -- the danger to the next generation.