Free speech shouldn’t be such a tricky thing – but what is your right and what is taking it too far? This is the main issue causing the controversy over a float that appeared in the Temple Terrace 4th of July parade on Monday. For the second year in a row, the City of Temple Terrace approved a float created by a group of pro-marijuana activists – the Central Florida chapter of the National Organization for Reform of Marijuana Laws, or NORML as we know them.
The float featured a 10-foot-long mechanical joint (though some referred to it as a blunt) that was emitting smoke that trailed behind them as they made their way down the streets of Temple Terrace. The group is one of the most well-known activist groups in the nation and they are using the parade as one more way to raise awareness about medical marijuana and how it can benefit so many different people.
Unfortunately, the joint didn’t sit well with many of the parents who attended the parade, according to Ellen Snelling, who is the chairman of Hillsborough County Anti-Drug Alliance as well as a mother of three children. In her opinion, they do have the right to be there – but they shouldn’t be permitted to have the gigantic joint as a part of their float. She says that the parade is meant for families and perhaps this was the wrong venue for the cause.
“When you promote drug legalization on a float in a parade, it can give a really bad message to children,” Snelling said. “I believe in free speech, but I think there is a time and a place to conduct speech referring to legalization of drugs, and a children’s parade is not that place.”
The director of the Central Florida chapter of NORML, Christopher Cano, says that they did everything by the book. They paid their fees, they got approval – “We want to be taken seriously,” he says at one point. The idea here is to promote the fact that marijuana is a medicine – it can help the elderly, those with chronic pain, cancer and even children with epilepsy. Anywhere can be the time and place to try and see that people take that into consideration, especially with Amendment 2 pending until November’s election.
“If the (Temple Terrace) Chamber of Commerce didn’t want us in the parade, they could have said that,” Cano said. “The float in front of us was passing out Confederate flags. They should be more offended about them than us.”
This is not the only event that NORML has their hearts set on in hopes of finding new ways to spread their message. They would like to eventually have a float at Gasparilla, however the $12,000 price tag is something that they say stands in the way, because the money could be better spent in order to spread the message of Amendment 2.
Was this the wrong time and place for a medical marijuana float? Was the joint just too over-the-top or was it really a statement maker, as the folks at NORML intended it to be?