Barney’s On the Beat

Free the Evil Weed? When I was a young court
reporter here in the early 1960s, I covered a trial where a
middle-aged man was accused of (gasp!) possessing half a joint. His
old lady ratted him out and cops — North County, as I
recall — found a half-smoked marijuana cigarette in his robe. The
jury found him guilty and the judge sent him to prison.

Santa Barbara cops would raid pot parties — people sitting
around smoking dope. Professional couples would pull down the
shades, turn off the lights, and huddle in the bedroom to sneak
tokes.

But how the world has twirled. These days in Santa Barbara if
you’re found with less than an ounce you’ll get a citation and $175
fine, police say. No jail. Police will tell you that sniffing out
dopers isn’t a big deal to them. Not with all that devilish meth
around. “We don’t spend a lot of resources,” Lt. Paul McCaffrey
told me.

So things are cool. If so, how come there’s a measure on the
City of Santa Barbara ballot “mandating that the Santa Barbara
police give state and federal marijuana laws the lowest law
enforcement priority possible”? Cats in trees, barking dogs,
littering, loud parties — anything — would apparently take
precedence over someone’s complaint that the homeless were puffing
in De la Guerra Plaza near City Hall or people were lighting up
outside Santa Barbara Junior High.

And if an adult got busted for possessing or smoking, he or she
could file a grievance complaining that somewhere in town there was
a greater need for enforcement, even if it meant watching for
red-light runners at State and Carrillo or graffiti artists on the
lower East Side. “We always have something to do,” Lt. McCaffrey
said.

Does it surprise you that police, even in laid-back Santa
Barbara, are vehemently against the measure? While backers of
Measure P say it will “allow police to focus their time and our tax
dollars on solving murders and violent crimes,” police tell me that
it’ll lead to increased marijuana use. It could also make Santa
Barbara something of a tourist Mecca for those wanting to lark
about sharing a joint, turning downtown into a kind of red-tile
version of Reefer Madness.

“What if your bus driver lights up?” asked Lt. McCaffrey. “Or
your teller?” Teller? Would Mike Towbes of the Bank of Montecito
really let his people get zonked while cashing our checks? But
backers say it might not do much to change the status quo, but
would send little Santa Barbara’s message that the war on drugs is
a failed disaster and that the country needs to change.

Pot Healthy? Marijuana not only gives you the
munchies but may also guard against the onslaught of Alzheimer’s,
according to new research by the Scripps Research Institute. The
active ingredient in cannabis may help wipe out that dreaded
disease, according to Scripps.

Suing the News-Press: As if the paper didn’t
have enough on its plate, Santa Barbara attorney Bruce Anticouni
says he’s filing a class-action suit against the NP on behalf of
about 300 current and former employees who have worked there during
the last four years. He’s claiming violation of labor laws. The
paper, he contends, has failed to pay employees properly, failed to
keep accurate records for hourly workers, failed to pay overtime
when required, and didn’t provide proper meal and rest breaks. And,
he claims, a number of editors and assistant editors were
improperly “misclassified” as exempt from earning overtime.

Mission Nuptials: On the heels of a lawsuit
filed against the Old Mission claiming that a wedding was disrupted
by Mission personnel allegedly enforcing rules, Pastor Dan Barica
told the congregation Sunday that the rules governing Mission
weddings will be eased.

Estate Sells: Oprah will be getting some new
neighbors. According to Montecito sources, the four-acre
Abercrombie estate on East Valley Road, a couple of doors from
Oprah, just sold for about $12 million. It offers views of the
mountains and ocean.

Taxing Proposal: David Strauss is launching a
letter-writing campaign alerting fellow residents of the Cold
Spring School District to a $14.5 million bond proposal on the
November 7 ballot. “This measure was put on the ballot by the
school district without sufficient notification and discussion with
those of us who would be required to pay for their wish list,” he
said.

Adios Acapulco: The Acapulco restaurant in La
Arcada Court has closed, certainly at no loss to the culinary
scene. I hear that a downtown Italian restaurant is among
candidates to move in.

Empty Bowls: The ninth annual Empty Bowls lunch
at the Rockwood Woman’s Club will take place Sunday, November 5, 11
a.m. – 2 p.m. A $25 donation will get you a choice of one of
hundreds of handmade bowls donated by local potters and filled with
hot soup from two dozen top area restaurants. Empty Bowls is a
reminder of those who go hungry in the county and who are helped by
the Foodbank of Santa Barbara County. For reservations, call
967-5741, x104.

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