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Regulations: High Grounds

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The420Guy

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June 2,00
Source: Florida Times-Union
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City officials are allowing Florida Cannabis Action Network to use Metropolitan Park on June 17 for a "hempfest." The group is unhappy, however, because the city plans to charge a fee.
The group said the city waives its fee for some groups and therefore city officials are discriminating against this group because they don't like its pro-marijuana message.
In seeking an injunction, the group characterizes the fees as a violation of its members' federal civil rights, including free speech.
Someone must pay expenses associated with any large gathering in a public park, such as police protection and cleanup services. Taxpayers absorb the costs at city-sponsored events, such as the Fourth of July show. But sponsors of private events are billed, without exception, a city official says.
If the event were adopted as a city-sponsored event, it could raise constitutional questions about government giving official sanction to one political cause over another.
The First Amendment does not guarantee "free" speech and assembly. It guarantees "freedom of" speech and assembly. There is a major distinction. Government must allow people to say whatever they want about a public policy issue. But it isn't obligated to pay the cost of spreading that message.
The cannabis group wants to solicit signatures on petitions to get a con- stitutional amendment legalizing marijuana for medical purposes on the 2002 statewide ballot. Only about 10 percent of the needed signatures have been collected.
Supporters have other options if they don't want to pay fees -- telephone solicitations, direct mail and adver- tising, conducting a door-to-door campaign or handling out fliers on the street, for example.
The "civil rights" hyperbole probably is a good campaign tactic because it portrays marijuana advocates as underdogs in a struggle against a big and unbending government. Legally speaking, it is merely blowing smoke.

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