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Radical Rant: Cannabigotry in Florida

Russ Belville

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Cannabigotry (n) – prejudice and discrimination against people who advocate for and consume cannabis.

My friend, attorney Leland Berger, coined the term “cannabigotry” to describe the unfair treatment of people who use cannabis. Like homophobia, sexism, racism, anti-Semitism and other forms of prejudice, cannabigotry is really a reflection of fear and misunderstanding.

I’ve written many stories about the cannabigotry that denies employment to otherwise qualified individuals because proof of their cannabis use shows up on a piss test. Cannabigotry keeps otherwise deserving organ transplant recipients off of donation lists. Cannabigotry forces families to uproot and move out of state just to treat their medical conditions.

Yesterday, I faced some cannabigotry of my own. It’s nowhere near as serious as the examples I listed above, but it stings and it hurts and it makes me angry nonetheless.

I have been following the East Coast Cannabis Coalition’s Unity Cypher—a torch relay from Portland, Maine, to Miami, Florida. Along the way in each state on the coast, cannabis activists have put together public demonstrations in support of marijuana law reform. I joined them in Columbia, South Carolina and in Atlanta, Georgia.

I’m now in Hollywood, Florida, awaiting the torch’s arrival in Miami. However, I had planned to stay in Miami, until cannabigotry reared its ugly head.

I have a very dear friend who lives in Miami. She and I were the youngest members of our high school senior class, and we’ve known each other since 6th grade. She and her girlfriend invited me to stay at their home for the week while in South Florida.

Everything was fine until my friend received some nasty text messages from her ex-husband. He still lives in South Florida, too, and they share custody of their two children. They would be at his place most of the week, but on the Sunday I arrived, my friend still had the children.

The texts she received indicated his extreme displeasure at the idea that I would be staying in her home at any moment while their children are there.

“I will not have my children exposed to an advocate of illegal drug use!” he texted, along with threats that he would be calling the Florida Department of Children and Families and accusations that my friend had been or will be storing illegal drugs and paraphernalia in the home.

For the record, I had no weed on me. I’ve learned my red state lessons, and I don’t travel with marijuana anymore. Besides, with the people I work with, wherever I go there’s generally some marijuana to be smoked. I don’t need to travel with it.

Furthermore, I know the situation my friend is in, and I wouldn’t be bringing any weed into her home. I was actually prepared to go the whole week without marijuana; my ad hoc circumstantial tolerance break before the summer, if you will.

In other words, those kids were in no legal danger. There was no threat they’d see or smell marijuana. The only danger was that they’d be exposed to a pot smoker who, maybe, they’d like and see as a normal human being.

The series of texts made my friend very upset. She furiously texted back that she and I have no weed, there’s none in the house, and there wouldn’t be. He would not relent. The mere fact that I am a pot smoker and I advocate for our legality was enough for him to consider me a mortal threat to his children’s souls.

So I found me a hotel room in Hollywood, Florida, rather than put my friend through unnecessary ex stress all week. Fortunately, I had just landed a couple of new sponsors for my radio show and had the money to cover it.

It’s still got me seething, though, as I was looking forward to meeting and hanging out with my friend’s kids, who I had just met that day. Now it seems like I may not meet them again until they are adults. I have no kids of my own, so friends’ kids are really my only connection to children.

The irony that tops it all off? She’s white, he’s black. Just 53 years ago, the two of them would not have been able to even live together in this state, and just 50 years ago, the two of them could not be legally married, thanks to bigoted anti-cohabitation and anti-miscegenation laws that forbade such interracial relations.

(Photo Courtesy of StarAdvertiser.com)

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