Phillip Tutor: A toke of leadership?
Oct 07, 2011 | 3045 views |  0 comments | 30 30 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Politicians are easy targets. There is neither an intelligence test nor a common-sense requirement for being elected.

If they’re buffoons at home, they’re buffoons in office, too.

But they’re our buffoons. We elect ’em. To find who’s at fault, look in the bathroom mirror.

Yet, being an easy target also can be an unfair, if not incorrect, characterization. Case in point is K.L. Brown, the Jacksonville Republican now serving his first full term in the state House of Representatives.

If anything, Brown is one of those easy targets; he’s guilty by association with a local delegation that is overwhelmingly unimpressive. He hasn’t been in Montgomery long enough to make an indelible mark. Remove state Sen. Del Marsh from this conversation — he is the Senate president pro tempore — and then answer these questions: When is the last time one of Calhoun County’s Montgomery representatives did something truly constructive in the Legislature? When was the last time one of them introduced legislation that made a constructive difference? Is our delegation made up of feeble followers or nimble strategists?

Brown, the soft-spoken funeral home director, may be the new guy, but also I ask: Is he becoming the guy, too?

In recent months, Brown has assumed the legislative face of the medical marijuana movement in Alabama. I’m not sure there were legislators lining up for that job. He plans to pre-file a bill for the 2012 session that, if passed and signed into law, would legalize medicinal marijuana. If that happens, Alabama — Alabama! — would become the first Deep South state to allow people with certain chronic diseases and ailments to legally use cannabis as a pain-reliever.

Meet K.L. Brown, the sponsor of what is sure to be a head-turning bill next spring.

Meet K.L. Brown, The Pot Guy in the state Legislature.

Surf the Internet and you’ll find a smorgasbord of websites dedicated to the legalization of marijuana, both recreational and medicinal. Most of them look like Cheech designed them and Chong wrote the copy.

But a few are well done and professional. (In other words, they don’t have green pot leaves as logos or use words like “weed” or “stash.”) And, since Brown became The Pot Guy, his name is prominently mentioned on virtually all of them.

To his credit, Brown has hammered home the point that his bill is not a first step toward the legalization of marijuana for recreational use. He’s not leading that charge. I know Cullman just went wet and Oktoberfest revelers can now imbibe real beer instead of root beer, but this is Alabama, after all.

Brown’s fight is personal, as many of the best ones are. Before his sister died of breast cancer 25 years ago, she used medicinal marijuana to ease her suffering. Brown wants to bring that option to eligible patients in Alabama. His plan has merit.

Opponents of this bill — there will be many — will espouse concerns that Brown’s bill will create innumerable loopholes that can be manipulated by sneaky people who like to get high. Proponents such as the Alabama Medical Marijuana Coalition will say Brown’s bill will contain the necessary safeguards.

It’s believable that legislators who don’t want legal pot for sick people aren’t likely to be persuaded. It’s those like me — those who see value but have concerns — who Brown must convince. He faces a steep climb.

What’s intriguing isn’t the cannabis discussion. It’s Brown’s action: Gluing his signature to a lightning-rod idea that has hotspots: Illegal drugs, terminal patients and government’s role in medicine.

Can you see local Reps. Barbara Boyd or Randy Wood — or any of the rest of ’em, for that matter — doing something similar? Something that will make front-page news in every Alabama town?

Pot’s not the point; leadership is.

Each time the sun rises in Alabama, we see examples of political cowardice, boredom and demagoguery. Each is destructive. Anniston’s City Hall is a disgrace. Political tensions surrounding Weaver’s mayor and council are palpable. Legislators such as Sen. Scott Beason and Rep. Micky Hammon are divisive and problematic; they seem heartless. The governor, unlike the previous one, appears detached, hard to notice.

I’m not sure K.L. Brown has made a wise choice. If he gets permanently labeled as The Pot Guy, that stamp will remain as long as he holds office.

Of course, if his bill becomes law, and if ailing Alabamians’ suffering is lessened because of it, being The Pot Guy will be an admirable thing.

Phillip Tutor — ptutor@annistonstar.com — is The Star’s commentary editor.
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