Thanks to the jackbooted automatons at the U.S. Attorney's office and a backward-thinking judge, another nonviolent, law-abiding citizen faces time behind bars, the victim of America's foolhardy war on marijuana smokers. This time it's someone who uses it, under protection of state law, to alleviate severe, chronic pain.
Medical marijuana activist Steve McWilliams, 48, was sentenced Monday by U.S. District Court Judge James Fitzgerald to six months in federal prison and three years of probation for growing marijuana, which McWilliams says relieves the pain of ailments stemming from a serious traffic accident years ago. Perhaps even worse than prison time for McWilliams is the requirement that he stop smoking marijuana. The alternative, prescription drugs, is too costly and not nearly as effective, he says.
As we've said before, CityBeat appreciates McWilliams' sacrifice in the name of resolving the conflict between federal and state law regarding the cultivation and use of medical marijuana (California allows it; the federal government doesn?t). He has, in effect, invited the authorities to focus their attention on him by openly using marijuana and advocating for compassionate city and federal statutes allowing its use for medicinal purposes. It?s possible that the only reason he?s in trouble is because he?s dared to antagonize the police.
This is what democracy looks like.
McWilliams' case will be appealed. We hope he's treated better by appellate judges than he was by Judge Fitzgerald on Monday.
So it's come to this. A few years ago, an Arkansas 8-year-old had his little butt booted out of school after he pointed a piece of chicken at a teacher and said, "Pow, pow, pow." Now a 9-year-old San Diego boy has been suspended for bringing a butter knife to school for a science project.
This is what "zero tolerance" looks like.
The general public would never have found out about the butter knife incident had it not been for the celebrity status of the perpetrator. He's Board of Education member Katherine Nakamura's son.
Nakamura found herself in a tough spot. Like any decent parent would, she argued against her son's suspension to the school?s principal. But she?s not just any parent. The principal figured it would look like political favoritism if the suspension was overturned and told Nakamura so. Nakamura decided, rightly, to accept her son's punishment.
But she shouldn?t have been put in that position. Her son fell victim to the effects of our collective fear of our ultra-violent society. The district's zero-tolerance policy says an elementary school student is guilty of violation when a knife is "brandished." Nakamura's son reportedly took the butter knife out of his backpack and showed it to a friend.
"Brandish" means to wave a weapon around in a threatening manner. There were two chances to nip this thing in the bud. The teacher who reported the boy to the principal could have investigated—asked the boy what he was doing with the knife and asked his friend and other others if they felt threatened. The principal could have—should have—done the same.
Yes, the district needs to have clearly defined guidelines about what kids can bring to school. But teachers and principals have to be counted on to interpret those rules so that innocent children aren't unnecessarily branded criminals.
It was a long time coming, but the so-called inclusionary housing ordinance, which the City Council endorsed in concept last August when it declared a housing emergency, finally made it to the city's Housing Commission last week.
The ordinance will force developers to make 10 percent of the housing they create "affordable" for renters and buyers who can't afford market rates. Failing that, they'll have to pay into an in-lieu fund that will finance affordable housing construction elsewhere.
We were pleased that the Housing Commission endorsed the ordinance but disappointed that Commissioner Robert Grinchuk's motion to require developers to build the affordable units on the same site as the other units got no support. We hope the idea, which would discourage segregation of low-income residents, gets another hearing at the City Council level.
Or else we might see what ghettos look like.