Newspapering is not a crime

What’s more annoying than relatively healthy 20-somethings who pretend they have a medical need for weed? Busybodies who presume to tell other people how to medicate.

That and federal authorities who threaten newspaper publishers for exercising their rights under the First Amendment.

By now, you’ve heard about plans by U.S. attorney out of Southern California, Laura Duffy, to prosecute newspaper publishers, and the owners of TV and radio stations who run advertisements for medical-marijuana dispensaries.

Bites can’t remember the last time a U.S. attorney issued such a blanket threat against media outlets. Neither could Jim Ewert, legal counsel for the California Newspaper Publishers Association. “In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever seen it before.”

“It’s so troubling to see resources potentially spent going after newspapers, TV and radio stations. As public policy, it just boggles the mind,” Ewert added.

The U.S. attorney presiding over the Sacramento region, Benjamin Wagner, seems less enthused about throwing publishers in jail. And for now, the SN&R is still publishing its “420” section, as is The Sacramento Bee. But Ewert said taking medical-pot ads is a “calculated risk.”

“I can make quite a strong argument that this is Constitutionally protected speech. But at the end of the day, it all comes down to who’s wearing the black dress that day.”

Does Duffy think she’s protecting the community from pot dispensaries? Because the community clearly has other ideas.

Just take a look at the recent agendas for the Sacramento Planning Commission. They are inundated with applications for permits for dispensaries. Because, you know, cannabis is so morally reprehensible to people that they just can’t get enough.

Consider some of the letters the commission got from nearby businesses about El Camino Wellness Center.

The owner of a neighboring auto-supply store said, “The security guards they keep posted seem to reduce crime in the neighborhood.”

The owner of an apartment building nearby said, “They keep the neighborhood clean and safe, and are extremely helpful whenever I need anything.”

Another neighbor said, “I have personally noticed a decreased activity in relation to drugs, graffiti, theft and violence in the area.” And so on. So heckuva job, U.S. attorneys, protecting us from these neighborhood threats.

The Sacramento City Council approved new alley names a couple of weeks back. They all kind-of sort-of have something to do with Sacramento’s culture or history. Solons Alley for example.

Then there’s Government Alley, which is dumb, but also kind of fun in a foreboding Blade Runner sort of way. But Improv Alley? No.

Why go for faux-historical when you can have the real thing, says writer David Kulczyk, a frequent SN&R contributor and author of the cheery California Justice: Shootouts, Lynchings and Assassinations in the Golden State. His most recent book, California’s Fruits, Flakes and Nuts is coming out in the spring.

He says Improv Alley, just behind where Office Max on J Street is today, was the scene of the murder of one Joseph Scott, just the second Sacramento city cop to be killed in the line of duty. “A hobo shot him. Scott laid in the alley for a couple of hours because the [1878 version of] Midtown hipsters thought he was passed out,” Kulczyk explained.

Also, the Sacramento cops didn’t wear uniforms back then, and his fellow cops thought he had a heart attack. “They only found out that he was shot when they were preparing him for his embalming.”

“Anyway, Scott Alley would be better than Improv,” Kulczyk concludes.

Agreed. Anything would be better than Improv Alley.