Letters to the editor

Common sense, compassion and marijuana

I am writing you concerning the federal government and its relationship to American citizens. I have been involved in the medical-marijuana war for several years now. Going into this battle, I only knew that my wife needed marijuana because of her health. The only thing I really knew about marijuana was from my personal use of it over the years.

I now know that, according to medical science, marijuana is less harmful than children’s Tylenol, which can damage the liver if not used correctly.

I now also know that the media has reported that marijuana slows the aging process and can prevent Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases. Also, it has been proven and reported in the media recently that marijuana can restimulate brain-cell growth in stroke victims.

On a more personal basis, a close friend of mine was recently given 30 days in jail for [possession of] marijuana. He has seizures. For years, he has been using marijuana to prevent and control these seizures. However, in jail, he had no marijuana, so he began having seizures. After several trips to the emergency room from jail, they decided his sentence was a hardship on him, and very expensive on them, so they released him with time served.

I guess both the court system and my friend proved their point. They locked him up because they said he broke the law, and they let him out because they realized he truly had a real need and could medicate himself better and cheaper than they could.

Through all of this, I have asked myself where is the common sense that all lawmakers and citizens should have?

I attended the first Asheville City Council meeting [when marijuana advocates made their case]. I thought the City Council was very nice in listening to what the people had to say.

I’d like to think that the City Council and its members have common sense, and I believe most citizens have common sense.

My common sense tells me the average person is afraid to speak up on this issue because they fear their own government. More surprisingly than that, I find that most doctors fear the government.

My wife’s previous doctor agreed that she could not use conventional medicines and that she was better off using marijuana. [He said] he does not know why the government makes such a big deal about marijuana, but he could not and would not fight this battle for us, nor with us. In all fairness, he did call a cancer specialist to see if my wife could get a prescription for marijuana, but she did not qualify because she wasn’t terminal, and in fact, cancer patients cannot get marijuana legally in North Carolina, except in an inferior synthetic form.

At that point, I realized how big a threat the government was if it could make doctors abandon their patients.

My wife has a new doctor from Asheville now. He is more concerned with my wife’s health and well-being than with his fear of the government.

All I want for my wife is the right for her to have as normal and pain-free a life as is possible. I believe the day is coming [when medical marijuana will be legal], and I urge all citizens, Council members, politicians, doctors, lawyers, judges and police officers to use common sense.

All of us have the responsibility to stand up for what is right and just. It is wrong for the government or anyone else to persecute the sick and suffering people. If you don’t stand up and speak up and let it be known how we truly feel, then you are in the wrong for being silent. You are accepting the government’s choice to punish the sick and suffering people. Don’t wait until your loved one is sick, suffering or dying, and needs this herb. The time to make a stand is now! It’s the right thing to do.

I leave you with this example: My wife has been convicted of receiving therapeutic cannabis from Switzerland. Her presentencing probation officer told her she did not personally think my wife should go to prison, but, due to her job guidelines, she had no other choice but to recommend that she be locked up.

Please, let common sense and backbone be our guidelines to the future and a more compassionate America.

— Steve Marlowe
Sunny View

Eat your cover crop for dinner

I enjoyed Jeff Ashton’s article on cover crops [The Practical Mountain Gardener, Oct. 7.] I especially appreciate that he is spreading the word that you can have your cover crop and eat it too.

However, I fear that I sang the praises of Ho Lan Dow peas’ edible tips or shoots too loudly [to him]. Jeff was left with the impression [and reported] that they are a podless pea. This is not the case. Indeed, you can have your cover crop, graze on it, and then, later, pick enough peas for a few stir-fries.

Just remember to sow thickly, as you would for a cover crop, and inoculate those legumes!

— Pat Battle
Flat Rock

Please save The Grey Eagle

I had heard about Black Mountain long before I moved to western North Carolina. As a matter of fact, I had heard more about Black Mountain than I had about Asheville. And it was all good. What impressed me the most was the way [Black Mountain] showcased the best folk music in the country — and not just for two fabulous weekends of folk-music festivals, but year-round, at a legendary little place called The Grey Eagle.

I was not at all disappointed after I moved down here and visited Black Mountain for the first time. It was everything I had heard it was and hoped it to be. And at the heart of it all was The Grey Eagle. I have been drawn back to Black Mountain time and time again to experience folk music in its element. I have lived many places in the United States and have never found a venue that is so true to its musical mission and so reliably provides a completely gratifying musical experience. The Grey Eagle is not just another bar that provides a stage for yet another generic band.

To me, The Grey Eagle represents a cherished sense of community that is so sadly lacking in our society. The artists that perform at The Grey Eagle sing of the pain and the joy and the love and the loss that we all experience, and do so in such a beautifully genuine way that every person in the room is affected, and every person feels connected to the music and to each other.

As I have strolled the sidewalks of Black Mountain, I have often reflected upon how The Gray Eagle seems to mirror the sense of community that exists in the town itself. The two seem a part of one another. I have often thought about how perfect it would be to be able to live in Black Mountain some day and to be able to walk to The Grey Eagle for another show that epitomizes everything good about my new home.

It saddens me tremendously to learn that The Grey Eagle will soon lose its lease. I do not know if anything can be done to turn this decision around. All I know is that the community will never be the same without it. If there is anything you can do, please do not allow the music and fellowship that makes your community such a cherished place to be silenced.

— Sharon L. Young

A middle-class response to Bill Branyon’s inanities

Is Bill Branyon [letter titled “Vanity’s Inanities,” Sept. 30] really as confused as he seems?

He supposes that it is the average-Joe-shopper — not the guy with more-dough-than-he-knows-what-to-do-with — who maintains our capitalist imperialist elite class by shopping at Neiman-Marcus instead of Wal-Mart, as if average-Joe-shopper could afford to shop [at the former]. He supposes that if we all saved a couple bucks a week by shopping at Wal-Mart, instead of the local retailers, all we average-Joe shoppers could solve the world’s economic and environmental crises.

I have news for Bill: If I decided not just to save my shopping dollars, but to give away 100 percent of my income to charities, it would not even amount to the proverbial drop in a bucket. That is likely true for most average-Joe-shoppers.

Nevertheless, if Bill shops at Wal-Mart, he might indeed save five, 10, or 20 cents on the dollar, versus shopping at other retailers in our region. My question is: Does he actually calculate his savings and write a check to support his causes, or does he figure that he can afford another McD’s stop this week?

And if he does write that check, does he stop to think that the other 80, 90, or 95 cents on the dollar go to support the very same capitalist elite he bashes? The Forbes 400 list came out the week of Bill’s letter. He might have conveniently ignored it. I read enough of it to know that Bill is arguing that it makes sense to ask average-Joe-shopper to support the wealthiest family in the U.S. [Sam Walton’s brood].

If I liquidated and forked over 100 percent of my approximately $14,000 net worth, it would take over 785,700 “me’s” to equal one Walton heir. Yup, one heir is worth $11 billion. We’re talking personal net worth here, not corporate assets. There are five of them at that level. There’s no telling how much [they’re worth], once you get the whole clan added up.

Most of us have some idea of how much $1 million is: 10 nice houses, 50 mid-size cars [or] a really lousy contract for a sports star or entertainer. But do we really have a grasp of $1 billion? What’s the difference between a million and a billion? A million minutes ago, President Clinton was campaigning for a second term. A billion minutes ago was the first century C.E. — the eruption of Mount Vesuvius was less than 20 years past. The Roman occupation of Britain under Hadrian was in full swing. Can we really conceptualize $11 billion in the hands of one individual? Or $55 billion?

Now, Bill, tell me how my paltry lower-middle-class existence is responsible for world crises and Madison Avenue values. And tell me how giving more of my money to the Wal-Mart folks will help. Why not argue for local economies, for thrift and second-hand shops, or for doing without the things that the average-Joe-shopper mindlessly buys at Wal-Mart? Why not at least suggest a less-predatory retail empire? Why not ask Wal-Mart to pay wages that open doors out of poverty?

If there is someone out there wealthy enough to shop consistently at Neiman-Marcus, to make all the hypothetical purchasing decisions Bill has outlined, and to possess enough wealth to make a global difference, perhaps they are neither vain nor inane. Perhaps they are simply following the Wal-Mart lead.

— Chrysse Everhart

Impeach Congress: Vote the bums out

OK, I’ve had it. The right wing is trying to overturn a national election because they didn’t like the results! This must be stopped. I would like to propose a legal act of civil disobedience that could send the right into near oblivion.

I am not a member of the Democratic Party. To me, they are a barely tolerable version of the Republicans. I did not vote for Clinton in 1996. I had voted for him in ’92, but could not in good conscience vote for him again (NAFTA, welfare, etc.).

[The country] had the lowest turnout ever in 1996, but the majority who could stomach that pathetic choice on the ballot went and voted for Bill Clinton. That was the will of the people. And that is the will that the Republicans are trying to subvert.

All the public opinion polls — New York Times, Wall Street Journal, CNN — have said the same thing over and over: The American public does not want impeachment. Yet, Congress has decided to tell the public to take a flying %$#& and has moved ahead with the impeachment process anyway.

This is their fatal mistake, and it will be their undoing. I wish our members of Congress had listened to the polls. But they haven’t. So, now we have to make them listen to the other polls, the only ones they understand — the polls that are filled with voting booths on Nov. 3.

The act of civil disobedience I am calling for is for each and every American to go to the polls on Nov. 3 and vote for the Democratic candidate for Congress on your ballot. I’m talking about a backlash the likes of which American politics has never seen. If you think this is something that can’t happen, I need only point to the national election in Canada in 1993, when the voters threw all but two members of the Conservative Party out of Parliament. In 1995, in Great Britain, the people of Scotland and Wales removed every single member of the Tories from Parliament — that’s right, every single one.

I realize a lot of you have had it and probably want to turn your back on the whole damn thing. I don’t blame you. But if we don’t vote, we’re essentially placing our democracy in the hands of some very bad people, and we will surely suffer the consequences of this for years to come.

If you want to stop this witch hunt, if you want Congress to start focusing on the real problems facing the country and the world, then the only way this nonsense is going to stop is to throw the bums out.

This is a one-issue election, and if you want the impeachment stopped — and I assure you, you have the power to stop it at 8:01 p.m. the evening of Nov. 3 — you must remove the Republicans in your districts.

I can think of a lot of reasons why Clinton should not be president. Staining a blue dress from the Gap is not one of them.

— Michael Moore

[Michael Moore is a filmmaker (Roger and Me, Downsize This) from Flint, Mich.]

Fight verbal abuse, too

Regarding the Sept. 30 Asheville Citizen-Times editorial concerning “Help is available for domestic violence abusers and victims,” I note the editorial deals with mainly physical abuse against spouses and children. I have noted other Citizen-Times articles on this subject … and they all deal with physical abuse and its awful effects on every family member.

I believe you also should include verbal abuse, as just as violent as physical abuse, and perhaps with more lasting scars.

If every spouse and every child who was verbally abused had scars, we’d see a lot of them walking around looking bruised and purple from the effect of the verbal abusing they are given daily.

Verbal abuse deeply scars — and so, of course, does physical abuse. Who are the abusers? Many [perhaps] claim to be Christians.

Can we start listing their church affiliation? We maybe could then truly determine the ones doing the abusing, and steps could be taken to counsel, perhaps from the pulpits, those guilty of this physical and/or verbally abusive violence.

The editorial is right: Family members, church pastors and members and friends must get involved.

When anyone who is abused is silenced (or even killed), it’s already too late.

— Haywood Stewart

An open letter to RiverLink

The ends do not justify the means. In pursuit of your lofty, high-minded goals, you have stolen from the community you intend to serve. You have preyed on the greed of a weak and gullible man, with a single-minded intention to serve your own ends. What you have taken from this community will not be replaced with more green space. I am sure there is no one in your organization who placed one whit of value on the Asheville Motor Speedway. I am sure not one of you stopped at the take-out window on a Friday night and then found a seat with the kids up in the Billy Joe Pressley grandstand for a night of excitement. No sweat. If we want to see some racing. we can just take off early from work and drive to Hickory, right? Right.

I’m all in favor of parks; we could scarcely have too many. But Asheville Motor Speedway was as an appropriate use for that land by the river. The people who were well-served by the speedway will not be well-served by [another] greenway. At least not there, not where the cars ran on Fridays when the weather was good.

Sure, by and large, the fans of Asheville Motor Speedway do not come from the power circles in Asheville. If they did, you would have been stopped. However, you have a responsibility to these people as well, and you have taken something which cannot easily be replaced. I never thought I’d say this, because I’ve been a supporter of RiverLink since its inception: But I don’t want your greenway. I want that track back. Ill-used land is begging for your help along that river, but it is in large part protected by the power circles in Asheville. So you have settled for any opening you could find and in doing so, caused a wound in this community. The ends do not justify the means.

— Ed Taylor

Nervous about Metcalf

The Asheville Citizen-Times has endorsed Steve Metcalf for state senator, despite the recent expose by the Sentinel. The letter to the editor [from Mrs. Edgar Lyngholm] in the [Oct. 14] Mountain Xpress, reminding us of Metcalf’s history with Buncombe County government, was interesting too.

Expanding the information from the Sentinel, I looked at Metcalf’s company, MGT, which does operational studies. In one of its contracts, the MGT partner in charge of a Texas-agency audit was, like partner Metcalf, a former high official in state government. He requested documents he wasn’t entitled to, then pushed the situation until it ended up in court.

According to an article in the Austin Chronicle, the Texas “Supreme Court justices were already wary that MGT was perhaps fronting for political interests when the consulting firm went after records that had always been clearly protected.”

Needless to say, MGT didn’t get the records.

Metcalf has been one of North Carolina Gov. Jim Hunt’s fair-haired boys for many years. When he gets a contract to study a North Carolina state agency, I think about that case in Texas — and it scares the heck out of me.

Taking it a bit further, why is it necessary for the taxpayers to fund these expensive studies by the governor’s cronies in private enterprise, when we already pay the state auditor and his department of 178 employees to do the same thing?

— Ann Ryder
Mars Hill

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