They're Dropping Like Flies

Call it a good idea for all the wrong reasons. The Broward County court system has set up a misdemeanor drug court for low-level drug users. Now, hapless pot smokers who get snagged by county law enforcement with less than 20 grams of the stuff can get off with random drug testing, counseling, and a stern lecture from Judge Gisele Pollack. Kudos for that idea. Why punish an 18- or 19-year-old recreational user with loss of his driver's license and a permanent stain on his record?

But county officials say they felt compelled to take special measures because of what they describe as a dangerous marijuana epidemic. It's really getting out of hand, says Doug Hughes, former drug czar under Gov. Bob Martinez and now head of the agency that monitors those who receive gentle justice. He told the Sun-Sentinel that "900 emergency room admissions in Broward last year stemmed from marijuana overdoses."

Say what? "Marijuana overdoses"? The 'Pipe wondered if that's what happened back at Auto Parts U., when he imagined that Pep Boys Manny, Moe, and Jack were trying to break into his college dorm to drag him off to the junkyard.

When Tailpipe asked for evidence of the epidemic that's supposedly laying waste to the county's youth, Hughes cited a study conducted at Nova Southeastern University led by Jim Hall, director of Nova's Center for the Study and Prevention of Substance Abuse.

It seemed hard to believe that anybody, much less 900 anybodies, ended up in the hospital from smoking too much wacky tobaccy (despite those famous scenes in The Gene Krupa Story showing Sal Mineo going into the shakes and cold sweats for lack of a reefer fix). So this battered tube asked Hall about his proof that 900 marijuana overdoses had occurred.

The researcher was diplomatic. "I wouldn't necessarily agree with exactly how that was phrased," he said. "Actually, there were only 849 of them."

Oh. But they were overdoses, right?

"Actually, [the numbers] do not refer to an overdose," Hall said. "It means that, in the course of coming to the emergency department for any reason, the individual had been identified as using marijuana beforehand."

In other words, the study found that 849 people who came to Broward emergency rooms last year had smoked pot at some point before coming to the hospital. It didn't say, Hall made clear, that their reasons for showing up there had anything to do with pot, nor did it say anything about "marijuana overdoses" or other injuries caused by grazing on the wrong kind of grass.

Way to go, Sun-Sentinel, for unquestioningly reporting the official drivel, just like they wanted you to.

The Long March

Want a chance to win $25? Here's all you have to do: Pick up a "treasure map" from the Downtown Development Authority in West Palm Beach. Visit all 77 participating downtown businesses. Collect stickers for each one and attach them to the map. Just like that, you're entered in a lottery.

Sure, you're thinking, why spend my days collecting stickers? Come on, we're talking a chance at 25 bucks, you lazy bastard. Why, that would almost pay your gas bill for the trip. Annette Gray, the DDA's new marketing director, says she dreamed up the idea in hopes of helping out downtown businesses that are being strangled by the never-ending construction. Her catchy motto: "You've got to dig to win!"

No kidding. These days, you practically have to dig yourself a tunnel to get to some downtown businesses, hidden as they are by the construction vehicles and nearly inaccessible along the sandboxes that were once Dixie Highway and Olive Avenue. Gray acknowledges that visiting 77 businesses might be a challenge for some. "It depends on who you are and how involved you get," she says.

Of course, there are other ways to win. Enter the $1,000 grand-prize sweepstakes by answering the trivia question: What was the name of the widow who found treasure buried by Seminole Chief Billy Bowlegs? When Tailpipe searched for the answer, the question stumped the Palm Beach Historical Society and author/historian Eliot Kleinberg. The problem is that the only reference to the question anywhere is an Internet site where Gray got the answer. To be precise, it came from a site that reprinted a 1975 article from the Northwest Florida Daily News, so you know it must be true.

You can also be entered for a chance to win instantly by visiting one of the selected businesses with a treasure chest on display. You just have to utter the "phrase that pays," which is, "I've walked all day for what?" No, that's not it. "It pays to dig downtown!"

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