North Miami Beach became the latest flashpoint in Florida’s medical-marijuana fight when a police official broke state law by improperly emailing out political talking-points from opponents of the ballot initiative that voters will decide in November.
Residents, city leaders and medical-marijuana advocates were fired up that Commander Tom Carney sent the “Truth About Medical Marijuana” email from his official work account — and that he then resent the "deceptive" email when city managers quickly forced him to send a follow-up explaining he did not intend to break the law.
“From the get go it shouldn't have been disseminated and then when it was done wrong the first time, it didn't need to be compounded the second time,” City Councilwoman Barbara Kramer wrote in an email to city officials Friday after a constituent complained about Carney’s politicking on the taxpayer dime.
“Guess I'm not the only one who thinks the PD shouldn't be sending this out,” she wrote.
Under state law, non-elected public officials are generally prohibited from engaging in electoral politics by using their public office, computers or email accounts – especially when they’re supposed to be doing their public jobs.
A violation is a first-degree misdemeanor punishable by a maximum year in jail and a $1,000 fine. That’s the same penalty for personal marijuana possession in Florida.
Medical-marijuana proponents say the controversy highlights the lengths to which law-enforcement and some government officials will go to defeat the proposed constitutional amendment on November’s ballot.
“It is unfortunate that a member of a law-enforcement agency would break the law in the service of denying relief to suffering Floridians who could be helped by medical marijuana,” added Ben Pollara, executive director for United for Care, which is leading the effort to pass the amendment.