Letters to the editor

Tell City Council to stop arresting marijuana users

[Editor’s note: On Aug. 11, the writer of this letter will propose to City Council that it direct city police to cease arresting people for marijuana use.]

Let me state up front that this resolution is rooted in the principles that issue from a belief in the sanctity of the individual. Since 1965, over 11 million people have been arrested for marijuana offenses in the United States. Upwards of 400,000 people are arrested for such offenses each year. People sent to prison for felonies associated with cannabis routinely serve a longer average sentence than those who have committed rapes, manslaughter or white-collar crimes.

Respect for the rights of individuals to live private lives has been seriously eroded by the complex of laws and law enforcement that perpetuate this war against the citizens of the United States. The Constitution has lost its teeth because the courts and federal government repeatedly ignore it and violate it. People are getting very tired and very angry [about] this age of prohibition and government-sponsored violence.

Mayor [Leni] Sitnick, whose candidacy I supported, claimed she believed that marijuana should be in use for medicinal, agricultural and industrial purposes. She even suggested that it may be the best crop to replace tobacco. Beyond this, however, she demonstrated no empathy or sentiment for our resolution. In fact, she and [City Manager] Jim Westbrook have tried to make it harder for us to bring it before City Council.

Leni informed us that she would not even consider making our resolution an agenda item unless we met with each Council person individually and got a majority of them to agree that it should be an agenda item.

While we welcome discourse and have prepared information packets for each Council person, Leni knows it took three weeks before we were able to even meet with her — we are not prepared to endure another 18 weeks of political stonewalling.

Continually we elect people who we hope have a conscience, and yet they persistently fail to use it or give evidence for its existence once they are in office. …

Our mayor and city manager would rather hide behind the law, rather than address the concerns of people who do no harm by using cannabis and, yet, are done harm by being arrested. It is not desirable to cultivate a respect for the law, as much as for [what’s] right. Law never made people a bit more just; and, by means of their respect for it, even the well disposed are daily made agents for injustice.

On Tuesday, Aug. 11, we will present our resolution to the City Council of Asheville. If you use cannabis or are supportive of the decriminalization of cannabis for its many wonderful uses, please support this resolution by attending this Council meeting. Governments never grant anything to the people that the people don’t demand. It is up to us to compel this City Council to do what is right and pass this resolution.

We will not desist from this effort. … In the words of Thoreau, “If the law is of such a nature that it requires you to be an agent of injustice to another, then I say, break the law.” Help us create a community of compassion, Asheville!

— Waterman

A landscape architect might save the world

After reading Bill Branyon’s letter about the devastation of planet Earth by Americans and our economy [“The more faster disaster,” July 15], I felt the need to respond to his tirade against development, by using the same sort of analogy he used:

Which is harder?

1) Telling a 600-foot-tall, 4,000-ton lizard, “Go to your room and don’t come out until I say so,” or

2) Helping the lizard to tread lightly and convincing him that two different species can survive together in “ecological harmony”?

In other words: Development is not a thing anyone can stop with a casual call to their local representative, or with a letter to an independent news source. Development will continue, whether we like it or not.

However, rather than just protest, resist or refuse to participate: One profession, in particular, is working toward minimizing the impacts of the Godzilla you wish to anesthetize. That profession is landscape architecture. You’re probably asking yourself, “How can a landscaper save the world?” A landscaper won’t, but a landscape architect could, if asked to serve on or lead more design/development teams.

You may want to to know the difference between a landscaper and a landscape architect. A landscaper is usually a person who designs and/or installs plant materials. A landscaper could be a landscape contractor, horticulturist, nurseryman or even the common homeowner. A landscape architect, on the other hand, is an accredited, registered professional, charged with maintaining public health, safety and welfare. Landscape architecture not only involves planting design, but also the harmonious integration of man and the built-up environment into the landscape. A landscape architect is trained not only how to use plant materials aesthetically, but also how to modify the land by grading and controlling drainage. It is not well-known that it usually takes a rigorous five years of study to graduate with a landscape-architecture degree.

To borrow a paragraph from Norma K. Booth’s book, Basic Elements of Landscape Architectural Design:

“While several other professions also deal with various aspects of landform, none of them does so with the same depth, knowledge and skill as the landscape architect. The trademark of the landscape architectural profession includes the modification and stewardship of the earth’s surface for our [human] use and enjoyment.”

Harmony requires two or more entities to cooperate and form a common bond. You cannot harmonize by yourself. Therefore, by realizing that development is inevitable, the best thing we could do is encourage, demand, entrust and legislatively support well-educated professionals who are not only stewards of mankind, but also stewards of the land: landscape architects.

If you are a developer, I encourage you to hire a landscape architect to lead the project team.

— Isaac Wantland

[Wantland is studying at the University of Georgia to become a landscape architect.]

Don’t sit idly by while young drivers die

The recent deaths of local young people in car accidents have deeply affected and saddened our community. Our hearts go out to their families.

I feel shock, sorrow, grief and despair that these young lives were cut so short. It easily could have been my 17-year-old daughter, who was good friends with one of the children in one of those vehicles. That thought — coupled with the reasons for the accidents — really brought home the preventable nature of these tragedies, and makes me very angry.

We know that many adults drive too fast, follow too closely, and experience, to varying degrees, the competitiveness that we’ve labeled “road rage.” We also know that kids in their early teens are, by nature, risk-takers. No matter how much they may reassure us, no matter how much we may trust them, when they get together behind the wheel with their peers, they are even more predisposed to irresponsible and dangerous behavior. And behind the wheel, this can kill them — or others — in an instant.

Cars have come to symbolize identity, freedom, status and control, and we, apparently, have accepted these ideas without examining them. Whenever I hear [people dismiss] kids dying in cars, [calling this] an unavoidable component of growing up, I want to scream. Instead of our driving cars, we are being driven by them [and] by our romance with cars — to the point where we accept the senseless deaths of our children as an unavoidable rite of passage.

Parents: We do not have to submit to this. We do not have to let our children drive. We can continue to drive them places or ride along with them … until we’re sure they and their friends are able to be responsible and are able to interact responsibly with other drivers.

The children who die in cars are African, Asian, white, Hispanic and Native American. They are male, female, rich, poor, scholars, athletes and just plain normal kids like yours and mine. We don’t have to sit idly by while they die.

Let’s remember Matthew Roberson, Leonard Jones, Clifton Hallum, Leanna Williams and John Lewis. Please forgive my omission of all the names I’ve forgotten or never heard.

— Anne Craig

Parkway needs protection more than an IMAX

I was dismayed to read the June 12, 1998, article in the Asheville Citizen-Times entitled, “Climb Mt. Everest at IMAX.” The potential problems associated with locating a visitors’ center and IMAX theater at the Hemphill Knob site have not been addressed sufficiently by this community.

What will the increased traffic on that part of the Parkway (already used as a bypass by many Asheville residents) do to the overall quality and integrity of the park, and what precedent will this set for other such development plans in the future? Have alternative sites been considered? Why is Rep. Charles Taylor so in favor of this project, considering that he has not asked his constituents in the Asheville community how they feel about it? Who stands to gain from this, and just how much money have they contributed to Taylor’s campaign? Who stands to lose? Why is federal and state money (i.e., our money) funding this project? How far will this political machine go if left unchecked?

The thought of having an IMAX theater in the Asheville area is a nice one. We would all likely enjoy it. But this is a national park we’re talking about, and we are lucky enough to have it in our neck of the woods. How many of us have driven up to a Parkway overlook on a beautiful evening to enjoy a few moments alone, contemplating the rat race we call life? I would like to see it protected from heedless development. Isn’t that what our national parks are all about? I think our children and grandchildren will one day feel grateful that someone saved them this little piece of heaven — not just on a big movie screen, but in real life. For their sake, I am asking these questions now.

— Julie Pearson

Ignorance, not LSD, is the demon

I found Bruce McCanless’ letter [“LSD Kills,” July 15] to be both comical and disturbing. I can’t help but be somewhat amused by the prospect of someone forming such a vehement opinion about a subject they obviously don’t understand.

Apparently, Mr. McCanless feels that LSD is such an evil demon that the mere discussion of it should be taboo. I, for one, would like to know the whereabouts of the “millions of people who became permanently brain damaged by LSD.” I doubt Mr. McCanless can cite a single example. While there may be rare cases of persons having adverse reactions to this substance, the vast majority of experimenters have had only beneficial experiences with it — myself included.

If Mr. McCanless had spent a few minutes researching the subject at any public library or on the Internet, he would have found his assumptions to be entirely inaccurate. With a little more research, he might have discovered that more people will die this year from Tylenol overdoses than have been killed by LSD in the entire history of the substance. Yes, like any drug (or anything), it can be abused. But that does not automatically negate the positive effects of its proper use. I personally used it many times in the 1970s and early ’80s, and neither myself nor anyone else I’ve known has been harmed by it in any way. I’m quite certain, in fact, that my life has been enhanced by the experience, and I consider myself very fortunate to have lived in an era when LSD was available. I’ll be quick to point out that it should be taken only with great caution and forethought, much as one would approach an activity like scuba diving or rock climbing.

The disturbing thing is that Mr. McCanless, like so many other Americans, hasn’t yet learned to distinguish the difference between information and propaganda. The drug war has become a growth industry, and our government — along with organizations like the Partnership for a Drug Free America (translation: Partnership for a Freedomless, Ignorant America) — has become very adept at keeping the dollars flowing. Their methods depend on having an almost endless supply of nonthinkers who will mindlessly accept the disinformation they spew.

The real problem isn’t drugs, it’s ignorance. Nothing is ever solved though fear and hysteria. Intelligence is the key, and intelligence can’t exist in an information vacuum. As long as people like Mr. McCanless consider the calm dissemination of accurate information to be “foolishness and basic insanity and stupidity,” we will continue to have problems of one sort or another.

I’m just glad we have one unbiased newspaper around here. Thank you, Mountain Xpress.

— Bob Hampton

Sidewalks are for pedestrians, aren’t they?

Today, for the umpteenth time, I walked with my two children, ages 5 and 3. And again today, the sidewalk was blocked so repeatedly that we had to walk in the road to get by: first by someone’s overgrown hedge and a telephone pole almost merging [into one obstacle], then by a pile of yard trash. No, it was not yard-trash-pickup day: I’ve seen these piles here for days.

Question: Does the [Asheville Public Works] Department tell people to put their trash cans and yard trash on the sidewalk?

[At another point, our route was blocked] by construction debris, piled next to the sidewalk, but spilled over into it (this pile, too, has been there for days — weeks, even).

But this is the one that gets me: a car parallel-parked on the sidewalk. I have never heard of a sidewalk [being used] as extra parking, but I have seen this over and over again throughout the city.

One day, I had the opportunity to speak to someone parked on the sidewalk, and I asked him why he did this. He mumbled something about leaving enough room for cars to pass (this was on Chestnut Street, where the road is plenty wide enough for parking on both sides). I tried to make sense of his reply — no offense to the man — and was baffled as I moved on, [maneuvering] around a utility truck that had needlessly blocked the sidewalk, as well.

If they would have just pulled forward a little bit …

Let me describe what it entails for us to get around obstructions. Usually, I’m carrying something, and the kids love to gather all manner of “treasures” while walking: feathers (it’s molting season, you know), pine cones, etc. — so their hands are full, too. When we get to an obstacle, we must stop, figure out a way to hold hands, wait for cars, then go. Sometimes this happens four times within one block.

Is it not safer to have pedestrians removed from the flow of traffic — let alone small children, who don’t understand their own mortality? Isn’t that why streets are for cars, and sidewalks are for pedestrians? Wasn’t that the point? To keep people safe and out of each other’s way in a predictable fashion?

I expect to see cars parked on the side of the road. And I would think it reasonable to use a parallel-parking spot in front of one’s home to place yard trash on pickup day. But isn’t it harder for everyone when a child is going to have to merge with traffic to get around a sidewalk obstruction?

All this brings new meaning to the phrase, “It isn’t safe to walk down the street.”

— Grace McPhee

LSD’s extraordinary value under supervised use

As the author of the June 24 “Notepad” article on psychedelic therapy [“Charlotte nonprofit publishes LSD book”], I would like to respond to Bruce McCanless’ hysterical comments about LSD.

No one doubts that many have suffered due to the irresponsible use of drugs (and not just LSD, but alcohol, Valium, Viagra, etc.). Even Myron Stolaroff, who wrote the book discussed in my article, acknowledges that a person “can go into a psychotic state” trying to repress that which LSD works to draw out.

But this is precisely the point of putting these powerful substances into the hands of competent professionals. With proper training, therapists could screen out all clients who are mentally unsuitable for an LSD experience; they could then profitably guide prepared, trusting clients through the darker (or lighter) regions of their pyche; and they could do this in the controlled environment of a treatment center.

Mr. McCanless is wrong to imply that any advocate of pychedelic drugs has “this attitude of ‘Who cares? Do what you want.'” It is only because of my concern for the mental and spiritual well-being of all people that I want our health-care professionals to have access to these extraordinary medicines.

— Frank Danay

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