Monday, November 21, 2016

Democracy's Hard, Dude

Much has been made about how the TV cartoon The Simpsons "predicted" Donald Trump's presidency back in the 1990's.  Well did you know that they almost nailed the effort to decriminalize marijuana in Oshkosh as well?

In the 2002 episode called "Weekend at Burnsie's", Homer Simpson is attacked by birds--which leaves him with injuries to his eyes.  His doctor prescribes him medicinal marijuana to deal with the pain--which Homer then smokes all the time (actually making him a better worker at the power plant).  But as "medicinal marijuana" becomes more popular in Springfield, city officials hold a referendum to ban it.  Homer leads the opposition to the referendum--not wanting to lose his "right to get high"--even organizing a concert featuring pot-head-jam-band Phish to hold a get-out-the-vote concert.  Unfortunately, the concert is actually held the day after the election--and the potheads all forgot to vote.

Fast-forward to 2016 as the group "Decriminalize Oshkosh" went out and collected four-thousand signatures in an effort to force a referendum to reduce the fine for marijuana possession to just $25.  They made a big deal about reaching the number needed for the referendum--and let us in the media know when the petitions were going to be turned in so they could be shown at City Hall with their big stacks of papers bringing "power to the people".

There was just one problem--well two actually--no one did the research into what can and cannot be brought up for direct legislation.  City officials now point out that you can't hold a referendum to just amend an existing ordinance.  There would have to be an effort to fully repeal and replace with an entirely new ordinance.  And even if you could amend an ordinance by referendum--Decriminalize turned in four differently-worded versions of their petition--meaning any citizen could have challenged their legality in court--and won.

There are some positives that can be taken away from this exercise in failing at democracy.  One, Oshkosh can continue to make a nice profit off potheads--and two, we don't have to sit through a 12-hour Phish concert where they play just five songs.

No comments:

Post a Comment