Two very different attempts to legalize marijuana in Florida are pushing forward despite Tuesday night's defeat of expanded pot laws including California, where medical marijuana is already legal.
One of the Florida efforts is getting a boost from a controversial music video produced by Miami’s Steve Berke, who is already working on his next music video endorsing legalized marijuana.
His first video urging legalization of recreational pot smoking gathered, in just the last few days, more than a quarter million viewers on YouTube.
The music video is a high-quality take off of Eminem’s new video “I Love the Way You Lie.” Berke’s video shows a sizzling couple enjoying what appears to be marijuana. No one was actually smoking pot. It was only tobacco. See it at www.steveberkecomedy.com.
Nevertheless, YouTube has slapped restrictions on the video forcing the viewership to dramatically drop nearly to zero, Berke says. Berke calls it censorship and says the irony is that Eminem’s video, widely available on YouTube, depicts scenes of violence, rape, arson, even murder and includes curse words.
Berke, who is a Miami singer, songwriter and comedian, always wanted to write a song about pot that would rally supporters. Berke and his team completed and posted the music video in time for the November 2nd national elections which included several pot legalization votes, most notably California’s Proposition 19, to move beyond existing medical marijuana laws to allow recreational use of marijuana under strict regulation and state taxation.
Berke says his team "knew the timing of Prop 19 and all the elections going on around the country is Nov. 2. So we tried to get it out in time for the vote."
Even though California's vote lost by a small margin, Berke sees it as success.
"I think it's a big victory, actually, that it got so close," he says, “because, if you look at it, 46 percent of the people in the biggest state in the union voted to legalize it, recreationally. And for the first time to ever be on the ballot for the recreational use of marijuana for it to get that close, is a landmark. I think in 2012 it has a good chance.”
Now Berke is supporting an attempt underway in Miami Beach to decriminalize marijuana possession.
"And so right now we're only about 400-500 signatures short of getting it on the ballot."
But Phillip Stoddard, the mayor of South Miami is fighting a much different effort regarding marijuana.
His city commissioners are urging state lawmakers to legalize medical marijuana in Florida.
"There's a difference between recreation-grade marijuana and medicinal marijuana,” says Stoddard.
Mayor Stoddard, who is a scientist at FIU, read the scientific literature on true medical marijuana and is convinced there is a real need for it: it relieves pain without causing much of a high or significantly hindering motor skills – but only when cultivated properly.
Stoddard is aware some may misunderstand the city's endorsement.
"Oh, I'm very concerned about that,” he concedes. “I don't want people to think that I'm in any way supporting, you know, drug legalization for recreational purposes."