From Hippie Lettuce to Fightin' Words

With Marijuana, RIRA Ignites Roosevelt Island's Latest Flashpoint

Updated 45 weeks ago David Stone
Anti combustible herbage sign posted by the Common Council
Anti combustible herbage sign posted by the Common Council
© David Stone / Roosevelt Island Daily

I laughed to myself when Judy Berdy sent me the photo of the RIRA Common Council's witless anti-marijuana poster. An ill-considered effort to stop folks from lighting up ganja on the promenade needed months to create and post a simple sign. It took less than twenty-four hours for it to get the defacement it deserved.

What made me laugh, apart from the sign's having taken so long it made bureaucracy seem light afoot, was that - after all that time and trouble - whoever was responsible designed the poster so the metal strap securing it to a lamppost ran straight through the word "Illegal," obliterating it with a thick strikethrough. 

But someone or someones unknown reacted angrily at the sign, unrelieved by the unintended humor of incompetence, striking back with anarchistic belligerence and even a little humor.

The clueless Common Council's in your face threat achieved something less than the desired outcome. Wanna bet they never saw it coming?

But lighting up wacky tobaccy in public is illegal!

Yes, and so is jaywalking, double parking and cigarette smoking in Yankee Stadium. Seen the gendarmes hauling anyone off in cuffs for those offenses lately?

More to the point, I believe, as a casual observer of the doobie liberation movement and a one time enthusiast who now hates the everyday stink of skunk weed, that lighting up a Thai stick outside Riverwalk or in Southpoint Park is also illegal. So, why pick the promenade behind 2-4-6 River Road for threatening your neighbors with arrest for an activity decriminalized in New York years ago?

Our ever out of touch Common Council apparently is not aware that excess enforcement of cigweed violations, i.e., toking up while black or brown, has long targeted low income minorities.

Social IQ Deficit

If you're supercharged enough to threaten friends of Mary Jane with arrest for a violation in which they are unlikely to get even a ticket or, in extreme cases, the maximum $100 fine, why narrow your threats to the vicinity of Roosevelt Island's largest population of folks whose budgets are so challenged they need the help of Section 8 Housing?

If there was a better word for stupid, I'd use it, but there isn't. So, here you go - this was stupid. It was also ill-considered and out of touch with the reality in which we all live. Oh, and you can safely call it mean-spirited too.

Like, why is the Common Council so overwhelmingly concerned over who gets high on what? Why is weed the single offense that earns a nasty sign that jack slaps everyone walking by a specific location?

If it's kids from the school the Common Council's worried about - which would be a hard sell since PS/IS 217's exposing them to rats barely razzed a hackle with that crowd - then the sign's in the wrong place.

The kids exit the building on Main Street, not the waterfront.

The playground behind 10 River Road or the Day Nursery? Already a nice, big DRUG FREE SCHOOL ZONE sign there. 

But we're just trying to protect people from the evils of trees!

Ironic slang for the location, but a conscientious person, like me, would have to say, "What evils?'

I'll admit that some of today's enhanced hemp spreads an oder disgusting enough to make me yearn for the barn where my friend Denny and I were required to clean the stalls in exchange for the privilege of riding magnificent odd-toed ungulates.

Nevertheless, and Louie Armstrong who enjoyed a daily blow (on his horn, too) would back me up on this, no one has been reported dead from a marijuana overdose.

Compare that with hundreds who die bike-riding every year, and nobody's shaking their finger at that popular activity. More people die jaywalking across Queens Boulevard than have ever died from smoking weed.

Extensive studies generally debunk the charges of pot's being a gateway drug, and studies of identical twins have shown that any long term negative effects are virtually nonexistent.

Are the short term effects, honestly, what stirred the Common Council to inappropriate action?

Is it so hard to let others be happy on their own terms?

Do we need more division...?

I've said it enough times already that it's barely worth repeating, if the Common Council does what it's supposed to do, if it works to unify our diverse community, we'd all be in a better place.

Instead, fractious behavior, from ridiculous attacks on RIOC to efforts to smother activists to this ill-conceived sign, continues to divide Islanders from Islanders, making some feel comfortable at the party and others unwelcome.

Any person who genuinely objects to smoking pot in public can respectfully discuss it with their neighbors who, after all, have just as many rights as everyone else. Confrontations reinforce polarities. We don't need them.

The Common Council's anti-marijuana sign is a 24 X 7 X 365 confrontation.

It got the reception it deserved. Let's learn and move on.

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