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Cocoa Beach: High Times.

Tonight the City of Cocoa Beach will hold a CRA meeting starting at 6:30 PM followed by a regular Commission meeting at 7:00 PM. The agenda for the meetings can be found here.

Of interest to us is the second reading of an ordinance that would change possession of marijuana from a criminal offense to a civil offense punishable by a fine. The issue is being pushed by Mayor Ben Malick. In the cover memo for the item, he states:

Existing criminal penalties for the possession of small amounts of marijuana, and for the possession of drug paraphernalia used to administer marijuana, are often disproportionate to the severity of the offense. Arrest records can ruin lives.

At the February 7, 2019, the Commission entertained the idea of instituting a citation process for the possession of 20 grams or less of cannabis (marijuana), and/or the possession with the intent to use drug paraphernalia as drug paraphernalia, and consented to placing the item on the Commission Agenda. Citations are an additional tool for the City Police Department to use at their discretion.

Many counties and cities,have instituted similar measures including: Alachua County, Broward County, Hallandale Beach, Key West, Miami Beach, Miami-Dade County, Orlando, Osceola County, Palm Beach County, Port Ritchey, Tampa, Volusia County.

Where to begin?

First, Malik is wrong that “arrests can ruin lives.” That is simply not true – at least not for misdemeanors. Convictions can ruin lives, but not arrests. If you are arrested for a misdemeanor, the consequences for your illegal actions don’t kick in until you are convicted of the crime. That’s why, for example, it is illegal to ask on employment applications whether a person has ever been arrested for a crime. In this country, one is presumed innocent until proven guilty and so the consequences of breaking the law begin with convictions.

Secondly, as to the idea that “existing criminal penalties for the possession of small amounts of marijuana, and for the possession of drug paraphernalia used to administer marijuana, are often disproportionate to the severity of the offense,” that is a matter of conjecture and opinion.

However, that opinion belies one very compelling fact when it comes to Cocoa Beach – the effects of marijuana.

Cocoa Beach is still trying to become a tourist town. While that may or may not be the way that residents who are footing the bill want to go, there is no doubt that residents or more importantly, tourists are not in possession of an illegal drug as some sort of status symbol. They are going to use the drug. Whether that use is on the beach, walking around town, in businesses or driving on city roads, the marijuana will be used.

If the Mayor wants to argue differently, then he needs to propose a change to the City Code which outlaws the same type of usage for alcohol as he is proposing here.

For example, if you are driving a car and a passenger has an open container of alcohol, that’s a criminal violation under City Code Section 3-12. This new ordinance means that you can have a baggie of marijuana in a car and be fined. An open container by a passenger? You are looking at a $500 fine and maximum of 60 days in jail.

We are not trying to say that open beverages are good or bad. That’s for someone else to say. What we are saying is that marijuana advocates often tell the world that marijuana is no worse than alcohol. Yet here the City of Cocoa Beach is making possession of an illegal drug less of a crime than the possession of legal alcohol – alcohol which the City has taxed and shares in the revenue of that tax.

If an open container of alcohol in a car is illegal with criminal penalties, how can the possession of marijuana in an open baggie not be illegal with criminal penalties?

Third, the Mayor invokes that old “they do it too!” clause to try and bolster the point that this is a good plan. (And here we thought most adults got rid of the “he did it too!” defense in 3rd grade.) The point is that who is doing what is not a reason to do something. Each idea has to stand on its own merits.

Can anyone in Cocoa Beach say that allowing the possession of marijuana which will be consumed makes Cocoa Beach a better place?

We don’t see it.

At the last Commission meeting, Pastor Keith Capazzi of Cocoa Beach’s Club Zion Community Church spoke against the ordinance.

One of the things Capizzi said was that users of hard drugs used marijuana. This was not a hearsay statement. This was a statement based on Capizzi’s history and dealings with people who use heavier and harder drugs.

Malik responded that a relative who is a DEA agent says that marijuana is not a “gateway drug.”

Believe it or not, both men may be correct.

By definition:

A gateway drug, such as alcohol or marijuana, is considered one whose use is thought to lead to the use of and dependence on a harder drug (as cocaine or heroin).

There is much debate on whether the use of harder drugs automatically follows from the use of marijuana which is Malik’s point.

There is no debate that users of harder drugs are far more likely to have started with using marijuana, which is Capizzi’s point.

In short, while marijuana use may not automatically lead to harder drug use, users of harder drugs invariably started by using marijuana.

The New York Times supports Capizzi’s point:

It should come as no surprise that the vast majority of heroin users have used marijuana (and many other drugs) not only long before they used heroin but while they are using heroin. Like nearly all people with substance abuse problems, most heroin users initiated their drug use early in their teens, usually beginning with alcohol and marijuana. There is ample evidence that early initiation of drug use primes the brain for enhanced later responses to other drugs. These facts underscore the need for effective prevention to reduce adolescent use of alcohol, tobacco and marijuana in order to turn back the heroin and opioid epidemic and to reduce burdens addiction in this country.

Marijuana use is positively correlated with alcohol use and cigarette use, as well as illegal drugs like cocaine and methamphetamine. This does not mean that everyone who uses marijuana will transition to using heroin or other drugs, but it does mean that people who use marijuana also consume more, not less, legal and illegal drugs than do people who do not use marijuana.

People who are addicted to marijuana are three times more likely to be addicted to heroin.

The legalization of marijuana increases availability of the drug and acceptability of its use. This is bad for public health and safety not only because marijuana use increases the risk of heroin use.

A better drug policy is one that actively discourages marijuana use as well as other recreational drug use, especially for youth. The aggressive commercialization of marijuana that is now rampant and still growing is particularly damaging to the public health because it markets marijuana and an array of increasingly potent products in ever more attractive ways that encourage marijuana use and frequent high-dose THC use. (emphasis ours)

According to Psychology Today,

Marijuana has potentially harmful effects in the short-term and long-term on physical and mental health.

Marijuana’s Potential Negative Short-term effects:

While intoxicated by marijuana, the following effects can be observed in users:

  • Memory consolidation difficulties
  • Anxiety, paranoia and panic attacks
  • Increased probability of psychotic symptoms
  • Hallucinations
  • Decreased reaction time
  • Increased risk of heart attack and stroke
  • Coordination problems (impairs driving)
  • Sexual dysfunction (mostly for males)

Marijuana’s Potential Negative Long-term effects:

    Repeated use of cannabis over a longer period has been associated with longer-term problems that may include:

  • Lower IQ (especially when use starts early)
  • Poor school or work performance
  • Impaired ability to perform complex tasks
  • Lower life satisfaction
  • Relationship problems
  • Antisocial behavior (stealing money, lying)
  • Financial difficulties and unemployment
  • Addiction

So the question is whether Cocoa Beach wants to contribute to the problems caused by illicit drug use, or whether they want to be part of the solution. Apparently Malik and other Commissioners think that the City is better served by a fine (which means policing for profit) rather than criminalizing the use and subsequent effects of the drug use within the City.



9 Responses to “Cocoa Beach: High Times.”

  1. CBer says:

    I don’t like the message it sends to young adults and encourage our commissioners to vote No on this issue. It is confusing and counterproductive. As for helping with the idea of arrest/convictions ruining lives, it doesn’t help at all. Marijuana is still an illegal substance and any record involving the conviction for possession/use will adversely affect your future when applying for jobs, especially the military and Federal/State/County government jobs. The police currently have the option to 1)Confiscate and release or 2) Arrest, this proposal adds another option to 3) Give the offender a ticket – I suspect a lot of folks who may have been previously released because a sympathetic LEO didn’t want to ratchet the crime up to an arrest will now receive tickets which will adversely affect the rest of their lives. The proposed change only sends a confusing message to young adults that you won’t be as strictly punished in CB – But it will adversely affect your future.

    A letter from the Office of Personnel Management for the US Government to all department heads states:

    “Federal law on marijuana remains unchanged. Marijuana is categorized as a controlled substance under Schedule I of the Controlled Substance Act. Thus knowing or intentional marijuana possession is illegal, even if an individual has no intent to manufacture, distribute, or dispense marijuana. In addition, Executive Order 12564, Drug-Free Federal Workplace, mandates that (a) Federal employees are required to refrain from the use of illegal drugs; (b) the use of illegal drugs by Federal employees, whether on or off duty, is contrary to the efficiency of the service; and (c) persons who use illegal drugs are not suitable for Federal employment. The Executive Order emphasizes, however, that discipline is not required for employees who voluntarily seek counseling or rehabilitation and thereafter refrain from using illegal drugs.” (emphasis mine)

    I don’t really see any upside to this proposal and potentially a downside of sending a message to youth and young adults that its okay to break the law in CB because we don’t really think it’s that bad.

    Please email your city commissioners (at citycommission@cityofcocoabeach.com) to express your support for/against this ordinance, they have the final vote tonight at the City Commission meeting and i’m sure they would welcome any inputs from concerned residents.

    • Frances says:

      Regarding tonight’s second reading of an ordinance that would change possession of marijuana from a criminal offense to a civil offense in order to empower the city Police Department to adhere to politicians rather than using their individual police initiative is pretty insulting to our city employees.

      I watch City Commission meetings pretty regularly. I think the idea of instituting a citation process for the possession of 20 grams or less of cannabis (marijuana) comes from the fear that the younger generation is or is going to become involved. Well, that’s life and it does happen, and prayerfully the federal government will allow the state governments to minimize this punitive activity in the future but until they do the commissioners will be dangling if they proceed on this path!!! It sounds like those working government employees and those working with government employees definitely should be concerned. This article didn’t mention if a person nearby a person using marijuana could be affected by just breathing in smoke from a marijuana smoker, another question for the experts.

      I have just read the comments on some pro and con ‘others’ deciding they are above the law and have skirted the law with technicalities to do so; those tactics might come back and bite them. By making those decisions they bent the laws-of-our-nation on their own turf! It’s the old “give an inch and they’ll take a mile” scenario.

      I voted on the referendum to allow medical marijuana usage in the city of Cocoa Beach. The Cocoa Beach ballot did not indicate that illegal or recreational marijuana was acceptable. This city ordnance under consideration was not mentioned on the ballot that I voted on. The referendum ballot that voters approved was to allow medical marijuana clinics within the city limits as being medically necessity in accordance with Florida State statue.

      I think it is wrong for our City Commissioner’s to ignore and twist the residents voting approval that allows for Florida State medical clinic(s) to reside within our city limits.

  2. Sandy says:

    Malik has always had an agenda to transform Cocoa Beach into some other city. First it was Delray Beach, then downtown Melbourne, now it’s all of these:

    “Many counties and cities,have instituted similar measures including: Alachua County, Broward County, Hallandale Beach, Key West, Miami Beach, Miami-Dade County, Orlando, Osceola County, Palm Beach County, Port Ritchey, Tampa, Volusia County.“

    Do you want Cocoa Beach to be like any of these cities?

    • Frances says:

      Sandy, to answer your question I say NO!!

      But as usual the local residents that crowded into city hall last night and offered ‘facts’ to the city commissioners were ignored by the usual CPAC group of 3. They voted to approve their new way of life ordnance anyway.

      Our County Sheriff and Police chief’s request to abandon their choice of totally ignoring the law fell on deaf ears.

      Looks like deja vu all over again. When will NBC return to SIN CITY USA and come up with another documentary.

      God bless the youth that took time to attend a city commission meeting. Some might even become old enough to vote in the next city election. Perhaps the youth of this community who still enjoy our beaches will rise up and petition for a referendum to repeal recreational marijuana in Cocoa Beach.

      • Sandy says:

        Has Mike Miller been smokin’ wacky tobacky? He literally said that caffeine is a gateway drug but pot isn’t. This may be the dumbest comment ever. To coin an old phrase, why do you think they call it dope?

  3. CBer says:

    Sounds like a typical meeting where they say publically that they want citizen input but with the exception of Commissioner Williams only listen when it backs up their agenda to turn CB into another Daytona Beach. I was thankful that Commissioner Woulas stood her ground, I suspect it’s partly because I think she works with government contracts and understands the ramifications of getting a marijuana violation on your record regardless whether criminal or civil. Remember we elected these folks, but hopefully they won’t do to much more damage before the next election.

    • AAfterwit says:

      CB’er and Sandy,

      Thanks for the comments.

      We have a post that will hit tomorrow (Saturday) on the “research” the three people who voted for this claimed they did. Suffice it to say that they didn’t get much right.

      If they want to beat people over their heads with so called “research” and “homework,” at least they could actually do the work instead of either not doing the research or lying to people as to what they found.

      A. Afterwit

  4. CBer says:

    I was out of town but did let the commissioners know of my opposition to this ordinance. I didn’t really expect them to listen but felt I had to make my thoughts known to them before they voted. I watched the meeting and was very disappointed that the gang of three completely blew off inputs from a respected pastor in our community, the CB Chief of Police, the Brevard County Sheriff, and the former principal of our high school, telling them all they didn’t have the facts and didn’t know what they were talking about.

    I applaud commissioners Woulas and Williams for standing firm in their efforts to put our city on the right track, the three other clowns need to go ASAP.

    Once again thanks to ROH for helping to get the word out to the residents about what some of our commissioners are pushing and I look forward to hearing some real facts in your future post.

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