tbo: Tampa Bay Online.
Sunday, Jun 24, 2018
  • Home

O’Neill: A welcome civil debate on medical marijuana

Not exactly another day at the politically partisan office. Who would have thought history – not ideological sausage – was going to be made?

But that’s what happened. For the first time the Florida Legislature voted to approve a marijuana product.

Indeed, what were they smoking in Tallahassee?

As it turns out, the Florida House Subcommittee on Criminal Justice was inhaling empathy. No, the grouse house hasn’t morphed into the grow house, but civility and compassion reigned as representatives heard testimony from those making the case that marijuana actually helped those in pain. As in brain cancer. For those subject to seizures. As in Dravet’s Syndrome, a severe form of epilepsy.

So, why not seriously look at a low THC strain with a track record of results?

* “People here in Tallahassee have realized that we can’t just have a bumper-sticker approach to marijuana where you’re either for it or against it,” said Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Shalimar, the committee chairman who sponsored the bill.

Imagine, a non-bumper-sticker approach to a high-profile, societal issue.

* “Frankly, we need to be a state where guys like me, who are cancer victims, aren’t criminals in seeking treatment I’m entitled to,” said Rep. Dave Hood, R-Daytona Beach.

Imagine, brain cancer metastasizing the length of the political spectrum.

* “We’ve got a plant here on God’s green earth that’s got a stigma to it – but it’s got a medical value,” said Rep. Dane Eagle, R-Cape Coral. “I don’t want to look into their eyes and say I’m sorry we can’t help you. We need to put the politics aside today and help these families in need.”

Imagine, putting politics aside and doing what you can to help people in demonstrable need.

Nobody referenced John Morgan, Charlie Crist, Rick Scott or “Reefer Madness” outtakes. No one issued any red-meat, “drug-crazed abandon” quotes for the morality-tales-gone-loony crowd back home.

No, this wasn’t smoke and mirrors. It was a subcommittee that had checked law-and-order bona fides and any gateway-drug misconceptions outside chambers. It was also a “what-if?” moment.

What if subcommittees routinely turned into deportment departments? What if the rhetorical bombast, posturing and bumper-sticker mentality that works so well on the hustings was typically absent when it actually came to law-making? What if demonizing were no longer considered a viable strategy?

Imagine more than opposition lip service and zero-sum negotiating on issues ranging from Medicaid expansion and “stand your ground” to state pensions, flood insurance, Common Core, casino gambling, solar energy, voter-fraud incidence, privatized prisons and environmentally sensitive growth.

Who knows, there might even be grass-roots support for it.

Marty, we hardly knew ye

Now that the emotion has faded from that less-than-classy exit from the Lightning orchestrated by Marty St. Louis, we can take a more dispassionate look at the context.

We know St. Louis, 38, had wanted to move closer to his home in Greenwich, Conn. That’s why the New York Rangers, an hour’s commute away, made sense for him. And we know that he thought about this back in 2009, during the pre-Vinik, chaotic-cowboy ownership days.

We also know that the chemistry between St. Louis and Bolts’ general manager Steve Yzerman had been devolving since St. Louis was initially left off of the 2014 Canadian Olympic team. Yzerman was Team Canada’s executive director and cast a key vote in personnel decisions.

St. Louis felt snubbed – by his own GM. For what it’s worth, the Philadelphia Flyers complained publicly that their man, Claude Giroux, was passed over when St. Louis was later named to replace the injured Steven Stamkos.

But there’s another aspect to selecting a national team. It’s choosing the best combination. More of a priority than pure skill is complementary skill. Nobody knows that better than the coach. In this case it was Mike Babcock of the Detroit Red Wings.

Reportedly, he’s not that keen on St. Louis. Hardly coincidental: St. Louis didn’t make Canada’s 2010 team that was also coached by Babcock and directed by Yzerman. The case can certainly be made that while Yzerman was St. Louis’ boss, he also owed Babcock a major say in picking the players he would actually coach.

Moreover, when St. Louis was added to replace Stamkos in Sochi, he played sparingly: 37 minutes total. He was scratched for one game and dressed, but didn’t play at all, in another: an embarrassment for an elite player. But he picked up a gold medal.

But nothing, ultimately, matters more than this: The captain bolted on his teammates, franchise and fan base with only 20 games left and the Lightning struggling to stay in the playoff hunt. After 14 seasons, six All-Star games, a Stanley Cup, MVP awards, scoring titles and countless choruses of “Louie, Louie” – Marty, we hardly knew ye.

USF AD’s stats impressive

Among the things that universities reference when bringing in a new athletic director is the new hire’s commitment to actually graduating “student athletes.” The new guy at USF, Mark Harlan, had been senior associate athletic director at UCLA. And the Bruins have one of the better reputations among the big-time players.

UCLA’s current student-athlete graduation rate is 87 percent, second only to Stanford in the Pac-12 Conference.

Weather Center