Category Archives: Drugs

That would have been a good tweet during the campaign

I posted this with a release advocating medical cannabis, and James saw it and told me to take it down NOW. So I did, and I saw his point. But I had liked it, and whatever I substituted it with was boring…

Y’all may or may not remember that back during our campaign in 2018, James and Mandy supported medical cannabis. James knew veterans who would benefit from it, and Mandy had co-sponsored the bill in the House that would have legalized it.

I myself was kind of neutral on the issue, but my job as communications director wasn’t to push my views, but theirs. So I wrote a release or two about it. Here’s one, if you can read it. (I can’t link you to it because the website is long gone — or at least, I can’t find it.) That one was taking Henry McMaster to task for his coldly facile dismissal of the idea — I certainly believed he was wrong about that, however undecided I may have been on the larger matter.

Why undecided? Well, to quote from the release, Henry had been asked “whether the substance should be legalized for the limited use of sick people who have no other recourse for relieving their suffering.” In Henry’s position, I’d have said “yes,” but would have gone on to say I would need to educate myself more to feel persuaded that there were conditions nothing else would cure. It seems couterintuitive that would be true, given the huge variety of pharmaceuticals available in the world — but I had heard repeatedly that it was uniquely effective and I was at the “I need to learn more” point.

Doug Ross doesn’t need that, being a libertarian. So he supported our campaign, based at least in some part on that position. I very much appreciate that support. But I’m not a libertarian, and have no problem with the government saying “no” to people when there’s a reason. And to me, the reason has always been that I need to be persuaded that an intoxicant that is currently illegal needs to be made legal. I might be halfway there in this case, but not quite all the way.

But I might have been closer to a conclusion back then if I’d seen what Mandy retweeted the other day. This was impressive…

Tom Davis attacked by high-larious (but offensive) mailers

mailer 1

This was tweeted yesterday by my own favorite legislative libertarian, the inimitable Sen. Tom Davis:

Needless to say, it’s getting a lot of response.

First, I thought it was a hoot. Next, I had other thoughts:

  • Does the shirt indicate that Tom is holding Maui Wowie in his hands? Where did he get it? How much did it cost?
  • At first, I thought the headline was ungrammatical. Shouldn’t it be “Will Folks agrees…,” since there is only one Will Folks who is known to Tom and would agree with him on this. Then I realized it’s not a reference to Folks, but just to “folks.” In general. The fact it was in all caps prevented me seeing that right away. But that’s an indication that this was likely produced outside SC. Because people inside SC know Will…
  • Party boy Tom Davis? Party boy Tom Davis?!?!?
  • Is the dope Tom is holding in a plastic grocery bag? If so, do the producers of this thing know that Tom supports local bans on such bags? Are they saying this is inconsistent of him as a libertarian? Nah. I’m thinking about it too hard…
  • What is that girl doing down to the left of Tom? Never mind, don’t tell me. This really is a party, isn’t it? You know, there are all sorts of ways they could have put a bong in the picture without it looking like that…
  • The whole “call Tom Davis” shtick is offensive enough — public figure or not, no one should be subjected to such harassment, especially when based on a lie — but then it gets really dirty: “Tell him to stop trying to turn South Carolina into California.” Fightin’ words…
  • And finally, I get serious: These kinds of dishonest hidden-hand mailers are a scourge upon our politics, as I have said again and again. Which sets up a video I’d like y’all to watch in which our own Mandy Powers Norrell touts her dark-money bill…

And finally… here’s another such mailer (or, I suppose, the other side of this one):

mailer 2

Here you go, Doug…


I initially used this image when I posted our medical cannabis release on the campaign website. James communicated to me that it wasn’t quite the look he wanted to go with so, ya know, I took it down…

How did we win over Doug Ross back during the campaign (however briefly)? Well, I imagine a number of things went into it, but one think I know played a role was our stance on medical cannabis.

James won’t be around to get ‘er done, but I’m sure Doug will be encouraged by this release yesterday from Tom Davis, the most libertarian member of the Legislature:



State Sen. Tom Davis

State Rep. Peter McCoy

COLUMBIA, S.C. – South Carolina State Sen. Tom Davis and Rep. Peter McCoy released the following statement regarding their intent to file tomorrow, on Tuesday, January 15, 2019, a bill titled the “South Carolina Compassionate Care Act,” in order to legalize in South Carolina the use of cannabis by patients for certain specific medical conditions, subject to a physician’s authorization and supervision, and to legalize in this state, subject to regulation and oversight by DHEC and SLED, the cultivation, processing and dispensing of cannabis for such medical use:

“For the past several months, we have worked with law enforcement, health professionals, grassroots advocates, and other individuals and organizations to draft the most strictly regulated and tightly supervised medical-cannabis program in the country.  Poll after poll on this issue confirms what we consistently hear from our constituents – that the overwhelming majority of South Carolinians do want physicians to have the legal ability to authorize the use of cannabis by their patients if those physicians believe it would be of medicinal benefit, but that they do not want to legalize the use of cannabis for recreational purposes.

“Our objective in drafting this bill has been to provide for a medical-cannabis program that reflects South Carolinians’ views on the matter – that is, to draw a bright line between medical and recreational use.  We believe the South Carolina Compassionate Care Act, a copy of which is attached, does that.  The summary of the act, also attached, breaks down in detail the safeguards put in place to ensure that a medical-cannabis program does not morph into a recreational one.  In developing these safeguards, we have looked at what has worked and what hasn’t in the 33 states that have already legalized cannabis for medical purposes.

“We acknowledge that the medical-cannabis program we propose is much stricter than the others; that is intentional.  From the tightly defined list of qualifying medical conditions to the level of detail required in the written certifications by the authorizing physicians, from the prohibition against smoking cannabis to the imposition of felony penalties for the diversion of medical cannabis for recreational use, and from the mandatory use of seed-to-sale tracking systems to the testing of medical cannabis by independent testing laboratories, we believe the South Carolina Compassionate Care Act draws the bright line between medical and recreational use of cannabis that the overwhelming majority of South Carolinians want.

We will have a press  conference at the State House in Columbia at 4 p.m. tomorrow, Tuesday, January 14, 2018, to review the provisions of the South Carolina Compassionate Care Act in detail and to answer questions about that act.”


Tom notes that polls show a supermajority of South Carolinians favor the change. Well, he’d better get a supermajority of votes in the General Assembly, because the guy who won the governor’s race doesn’t hold with it.

If we’d won, he wouldn’t have that problem.

It’s getting harder and harder to believe Trump doesn’t drink

The most powerful man in the world feels so picked on by these people that he lashes out like a middle-schooler writing in a slam book.

The most powerful man in the world feels so picked on by these people that he lashes out like a middle-schooler writing in a slam book.

A guy is up at 3 a.m. spewing out Tweets that are nearly or completely incoherent (covfefe!), filled with offensive vitriol, lashing out at everyone who has ever — in his surly, dim perception — done him wrong. Especially if they’re women. The next day, everyone who knows him is in an uproar. The whole world, including some of his friends, says this must stop! The next night, he does it again.

This is a classic pattern, right? So how is it possible that there’s not alcohol, or some other intoxicant, involved?

And yet, we are so often reassured, the man who Tweeted that gross effusion about Mika Brzezinski — just the latest in a sickening, unending series (it still blows my mind that a president of the United States finds time to tweet more than I do) — does not touch strong drink. There’s a compelling, tragic backstory to this — Trumps older brother, an alcoholic, died at 42.

And I continue to believe it.

But how, then, do we explain the Tweets? Or the rest of his behavior, for that matter? But the Tweets seem the perfect distillation of all this other unhinged behavior, set down in writing and shared with all…

What grown man who is sober would write about a woman, “She was bleeding badly from a face-lift. I said no!” (Especially when there’s no truth in it.) A sober 12-year-old might. But not a sober grownup, under any circumstances.

Oh, and by the way — I cited above the pattern of middle-of-the-night Tweets. This wasn’t even that. The two Tweets leading to the latest uproar went out at 8:52 a.m. and six minutes later. You know, at a time you’d expect a POTUS to be getting his morning intelligence briefing, or making calls to Congress to try to pass his agenda, or meeting with foreign dignitaries, or something other than watching a TV show and obsessing about how much he hates the hosts, and publishing rude, crude comments about them — the sort of childish, mindless insults that kids wrote in “slam books” when I was in middle school.

If Trump were a guy who started drinking at breakfast, like Winston Churchill, this would make some kind of sense.

But once you take alcohol out of the mix, how do you explain it?

A gram is better than a damn, ma’am

Soma ad

Sometimes Google Adsense makes, well, sense — such as the ad I’m seeing in the rail at right — I’ve really been into building my family tree lately.

Sometimes I am mystified. That’s the case with the “Soma” ad you see above.

Doubly mystified. To me, “Soma” means:

  1. The therapeutic and recreational drug of choice in Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World, where “A gramme is better than a damn” is axiomatic. It is used to keep people in that creepy utopia from feeling disagreeable emotions. Life is tough? Take a soma holiday!
  2. The muscle relaxer I have used at times over the years — generic name “carisoprodol.”

I don’t associate it with ladies in swimsuits. But apparently, that’s a thing now.

I don’t know why. Perhaps it’s that their products are meant to fit women’s physical forms, since “soma” means “the body as distinct from the soul, mind, or psyche.” You know, as in “psychosomatic.”

But it caught my eye…


Does smoking dope make reggae less monotonous?

I got to thinking about that question yet again when I saw this:

KINGSTON, Jamaica — President Obama, who arrived here Wednesday evening for a meeting with Caribbean leaders, made an unscheduled nighttime visit to the Bob Marley Museum.

“I still have all the albums,” Obama, in rolled up shirtsleeves, told museum guide Natasha Clark, as he toured the home in central Kingston where the Jamaican reggae great lived from 1975 until his death in 1981.

Marley’s family has turned the rambling, Victorian style house and outbuildings into a museum where all things Marley are sold –T-shirts, posters, albums — and artifacts from his life and Jamaican culture are displayed.

As Obama toured, strains of “One Love,” a Marley great, with its chorus of “let’s get together and feel all right,” echoed out the windows and into the night….

And this is not an Obama-baiting post or anything. I just know that POTUS was something of a toker in his youth, and I’m wondering whether that’s why he is a Marley fan and I’m not.

I’ve just always reggae sounded:

  • Like music made by and for people who are really into ganja.
  • Monotonous.

I’ve just never been able to get into it, and I’ve wondered whether that’s because I’m not, you know, stoned. It has a kind of gently bouncing, going-nowhere, chilling-along sort of sound to it that seems like something that would appeal mainly to people who are artificially relaxed.

Oh, and as long as I’m confessing to being so uncool, I also have a problem with blues. Something about the whole basic, predictable progression, the first line that is repeated, the whole SAMENESS about blues makes it hard for me to listen to it for very long.

I can enjoy maybe one blues song at a time — I love Hendrix’s “Red House” (below), which follows the form religiously — but after a couple of them, they tend to sound repetitive. Unless they are the sort that departs from the standard pattern, such as “House of the Rising Sun” or “St. James Infirmary.” Those are special. But on the whole, listening to a whole set or album of blues wears on me.

I did sort of enjoy that album of blues covers that Eric Clapton put out in 1994, “From the Cradle.” He put a lot of energy into making every song special. But when I misplaced the CD sometime in the middle of that decade, I didn’t look for it very hard. And back to my original topic, “I Shot the Sheriff” is easily my least favorite Clapton track.

I’ve tried hard over the years to be a blues connoisseur — because all cool people are, right? — but failed. And yes, I know that a huge proportion of the pop songs I’ve enjoyed in my life are based in blues, but they appeal because of the innovative things they do on top of the basic form — near as I can tell, not being a musical scholar.

Anyway, consider the source in contemplating my comments on reggae — they’re coming from a guy who doesn’t even dig the blues…

The unraveling of Todd Kincannon

I’ve never known quite what to think, much less say, about local attorney, former state GOP director and social media provocateur Todd Kincannon.

Some of his detractors on the Web have less trouble labeling him, although they sometimes seem to be trying too hard, I suppose in an effort to match his own vitriol. The characterizations come across as strained: “chinless monster,” “Tea Party troll,” “‘Family Values’ Lunatic,” “‘Pro-Life’ Sociopath,” and so forth.

Not that he hasn’t asked for it (in fact, he has seemed to relish the attention).

The couple or three times I’ve met him, he’s seemed a contained, respectful young man, although eager to be heard — not very different from most ambitious young white men one finds in the background of the GOP these days. Of course, I haven’t seen him in a while. The last time was when we appeared together on Cynthia Hardy’s talk show on WACH-Fox, and that was several years back.

But the Todd Kincannon who has roamed the internet with marked aggression in recent years has been something else — a disturbing figure, a sort of poster boy for the phenomenon whereby social media bring out the very worst in some people.

He’s been banned from Twitter, his weapon of choice, twice for such eruptions as:

zulus ebola

And, if you’ll forgive me for repeating it, his most infamous utterance:


This seems a good time to make a point about words and the way they are abused in our political discourse…

A lot of people, particularly on the left, have a penchant for calling people they disagree with “hateful.” I’ll see the word “hate” used, and I’ll compare it to the comment or position that it’s applied to, and it just doesn’t match up.

Those Tweets from Todd Kincannon? Now those are hateful, even if he’s only doing it to get attention. Just for future reference, this is the standard for the word.

Back to our topic…

Todd is in the news again:

A former executive director of the South Carolina Republican Party arrested Monday for charge of criminal domestic violence has been released on a $5,000 bond.JJTKINCANNONMUG

James John Todd Kincannon, 33, who is also an attorney, was arrested in connection with an earlier incident that caused his wife to tell deputies she was fearful for her life, Lexington County Sheriff Lewis McCarty said in a statement released Monday.

Ashley Griffith stated to deputies that on March 26 she was involved in an altercation with her husband who became angry with her after the two left an event, an arrest warrant alleges. According to the warrant, Griffith told deputies that Kincannon yelled at her and used profanity while driving near Irmo. Griffith also said that she lowered her window and yelled at passing motorists to help her while she pleaded with Kincannon to stop the car.

Griffith said Kincannon began driving the motor vehicle erratically and avoiding traffic lights while driving at a high rate of speed, the arrest warrant alleges. Griffith then tried to exit the car but Kincannon grabbed her arm in order to stop her…

For his part, Kincannon blames his behavior on the prescription, non-narcotic antitussive benzonatate: “I’d never taken it before, and took it for the first time last night. Basically, I went completely crazy after taking it.”

Folks, I’ve taken benzonatate. I took a LOT of it early this year, when I was having trouble functioning because of a cough I couldn’t get rid of. For a couple of weeks, I took it every eight hours. It helped some. It did not make me violent, or lead to any sort of out-of-control behavior. Yes, drugs affect different people different ways — the old prescription asthma medication Tedral used to make me paranoid if I took it with caffeine. I really thought people around me were deliberately trying to upset me. But I didn’t do anything about it, because I knew the reaction was irrational.



Of course, he does claim that he did the ONE thing you are never supposed to do with benzonatate: bite down on the capsule and break it before swallowing it. As Wikipedia warns, “Excessive absorption of benzonatate will occur if the gelcaps are chewed or allowed to dissolve in the mouth. This may lead to an overdose of the drug. Overdose of benzonatate may manifest as central nervous system side effects, such as mental confusion and hallucination, restlessness and tremors.”

Still, I don’t find benzonatate to be a persuasive explanation. It seems a bit too neat. It suggests that he’ll be fine if you keep him away from cough suppressants. And social media (was he on benzonatate when he posted those Tweets? no, because he said this was the first time he’d had it). And, I suppose, red kryptonite.

Here’s hoping Todd Kincannon gets it together, and soon. What we’ve seen over the last couple of years is the spectacle of a man unraveling. Now that it’s gotten to the point of violence, it’s pretty scary…

I’m taking little white pills and my eyes are still itchy


And I write that headline with apologies to Dave Dudley. (You know, “I’m takin’ little white pills and my eyes are open wide…“)

How are y’all doing with the pollen? I’m not doing so great.

Of course, I take my usual double-adult dose of Zyrtec every night (my allergist decided years ago that 10 mg wasn’t enough for me), plus the Singulair that I take to keep asthma away but which I also find has an antihistaminic effect (I tried to quit taking it a couple of years back, and my nose was like Niagara Falls).

But at times like this, I have to get over-the-counter reinforcements, which in our house we just refer to as “little white pills.” Every drug store sells a house-brand version. They’re these generic tablets of chlorpheniramine maleate (antihistamine) and phenylephrine HCL (decongestant — and not the one you can make meth from). Essentially the same two drugs as in Alka-Seltzer Plus, minus the aspirin.

I find that they help admirably most of the time, but usually not until I’ve taken them every four hours for a day or so. After that, I can taper off some. Yesterday, I had been taking them at the prescribed intervals for quite a few days, and started having pretty bad symptoms again after only a couple of hours. And I’ve found in the past that sometimes if you push the envelope a tad — taking another dose after only three hours, just once or twice — you can get back on top of it. So, I tried that once or twice.

None of the tricks were working last night. Today, I’m feeling the effects of overwhelming hay fever and maybe a little too much of each of these drugs in my system, plus a largely sleepless night probably brought on by both of the first two factors. Then there’s the caffeine that I’ve tried to keep myself going with today. There’s nothing like feeling a little jittery from too much coffee while still having trouble keeping your eyes open and putting one thought in front of another…

I’m sure I’ll be better tomorrow, though. Right?

That’s me. How are y’all doing?

Davis, other SC senators push to legalize CBD oil

This comes from Tom Davis:

Statement by SC State Senator Tom Davis


Earlier today, SC State Senator Tom Davis (R-Beaufort) filed S1035, a bill whose objective is to allow doctors in South Carolina to prescribe Cannabidiol (CBD) oil, a non-psychoactive chemical in cannabis, to South Carolina patients who suffer with intractable epilepsy.  The following state senators have signed onto S1035 as cosponsors: Ray Cleary (R-Georgetown), Katrina Shealy (R-Lexington), Larry Martin (R-Pickens), Larry Grooms (R-Berkeley), Lee Bright (R-Greenville), and Luke Rankin (R-Horry).   A copy of the bill is attached.


Davis said he recently became aware of the therapeutic benefits of CBD oil when one of his constituents, Harriett Hilton, told him about her six-year-old granddaughter, Mary Louise Swing, who resides in Mt. Pleasant.  A picture of Mary Louise is attached.  “Harriett told me that Mary Louise sometimes suffers up to 100 epileptic seizures an hour,” Davis said, “and that none of the drugs prescribed by her doctors at the MUSC Epilepsy Center has provided relief.  Harriett also told me that Mary Louise’s caregivers at MUSC believe CBD might help, but that the law prevents them from prescribing it to her.   That is morally wrong, and the purpose of S1035 is to jumpstart a process to remove those legal barriers.”


Scientific and clinical studies have confirmed CBD’s potential as an effective treatment for those with intractable epilepsy.  Accordingly, last fall the federal Food and Drug Administration green-lighted clinical studies of CBD as an anti-seizure medication at two research universities in New York and San Francisco.  The drug — manufactured by GW Pharmaceuticals, called “Epidiolex™,” and in the form of a liquid that is administered orally with a syringe dropper – is currently being prescribed by doctors to patients with intractable epilepsy at the NYU School of Medicine and at University of California at San Francisco.


“The doctors and medical research facilities at MUSC are every bit as good as those in New York and San Francisco,” Davis said. “I want to legally empower MUSC and its epileptologists to prescribe CBD oil to those with intractable epilepsy like Mary Louise, and S1035 outlines the critical path to making that happen.”


S1035 would revise a South Carolina law passed in 1980 titled “The Controlled Substances Therapeutic Research Act of 1980,” which authorized DHEC to engage in clinical studies regarding certain medical therapeutic uses of marijuana. That 1980 law has never been funded and has lain dormant, and Davis says it’s time to breathe life into it.  “I realize that federal law still classifies cannabis as a Schedule I controlled substance,” said Davis. “But as the FDA itself has acknowledged, it makes no sense to ban CBD oil, a non-psychoactive chemical derived from cannabis.  You can’t get high on it and it has no street value, and it makes zero sense to legally prohibit doctors from prescribing something that would relieve their patients’ suffering.”



Of all the legalization arguments I’ve heard and seen, this one makes the most sense.

Driving while stoned is a worse idea than ever


Bart, in response to Bud recently saying that “Pot is no more dangerous than coffee,” shares this:

TUESDAY, Feb. 4, 2014 (HealthDay News) — The legalization of marijuana is an idea that is gaining momentum in the United States, but there may be a dark side to pot becoming more commonplace, a new study suggests.

Fatal crashes involving marijuana use tripled during the previous decade, fueling some of the overall increase in drugged-driving traffic deaths, researchers from Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health report.

“Currently, one of nine drivers involved in fatal crashes would test positive for marijuana,” said co-author Dr. Guohua Li, director of the Center for Injury Epidemiology and Prevention at Columbia. “If this trend continues, in five or six years non-alcohol drugs will overtake alcohol to become the most common substance involved in deaths related to impaired driving.”…


Police throw book at car-on-roof suspect

You may have heard about the car found on the roof of a house in Forest Acres.

Here’s more on the subject:

Police have arrested a known gang member whose vehicle landed on the roof of a Forest Acres home following a police chase early Saturday morning.

Antwon Ashley, 31, has been charged with headlights required, reckless driving, hit and run property damage over $10,000, failure to stop for blue lights, trafficking crack cocaine, distribution within the proximity of a school, littering and opposing law enforcement….

Wow. Busy night. Allegedly.

Unfortunately, no one has reported HOW the car got on top of the house. Which is the one thing we want to know, right?

Police say they don’t know.

Studies: smoking dope can lead to schizophrenia

By Torben Hansen, via Flickr

By Torben Hansen, via Flickr

What I had always heard, and even seen in real life, was that teenagers who smoke a lot of dope tend to have trouble maturing, that things that are going on in their undeveloped brains get derailed, with long-term cognitive effects. Hence the phenomenon of the 30-year-old stoner who seems in some ways like a 15-year-old.

But I don’t recall having read this before, even though the research results seem to have been out there for awhile:

There is a significant and consistent relationship between marijuana use and the development of schizophrenia and related disorders….

Though they receive little attention in the legalization debate, the scientific studies showing an association between marijuana use and schizophrenia and other disorders are alarming. A 2004 article in the highly respected British Journal of Psychiatry reviewed four large studies, all of which showed a significant and consistent association between consumption of marijuana (mostly during teenage years or early 20s) and the later development of schizophrenia. The review concluded that marijuana is a “causal component,” among others, in the development of schizophrenia and other psychotic disorders.

A 2007 study in the Lancet, a British medical journal, concludes that using marijuana increases the risk of young people developing a psychotic illness, such as schizophrenia. This risk is greatest—up to a 200% increase—among those who use marijuana heavily and who start using at a younger age.

So I pass it on, for those who still think the stuff’s harmless, and Sheriff Lott was a Blue Meanie for busting the Olympic swimmer.

And yeah, for those who think it’s a terrific argument to say “Alcohol’s worse” — it may be indeed. But we tried outlawing that, and it didn’t work out, because it was too far ingrained in the culture. I’m not ready to give up on this ban. We have enough trouble with alcohol.

Ravenel may join Sanford in testing tolerance of Lowcountry voters

Ravenel on his Facebook page: Tanned, rested and ready?

Ravenel on his Facebook page: Tanned, rested and ready?

In response to Will Folks speculating that he would run for the congressional seat vacated by Tim Scott, Thomas Ravenel posted the following today on Facebook:

I allowed someone to use my name in a poll which sparked the below article. Yes, I am considering a comeback but I’m not sure if the timing of this race is right for me. Anyway, the filing deadline is not until January 28 so that’s 17 days for me to make up my mind.

This puts me in mind of the old stereotype about how folks in the Lowcountry are so tolerant of the kinds of behavior that would send the Calvinists of the Upstate into orbit. Imagine both Ravenel and Mark Sanford testing to what extent coastal voters are willing to say, “Boys will be boys.”

For those who don’t recall, our former state treasurer pleaded guilty to “conspiring to buy and distribute less than 100 grams of cocaine” in 2007. Since then, he has advocated ending the criminalization of drugs. For more background, here are some interview videos I shot of Ravenel, which became briefly popular, in a minor league sort of way, on YouTube after he was charged.

Leon Lott at Rotary: THREE standing ovations

Well, I saw something I've never seen before at my Rotary Club, to the best of my memory (and fellow Rotarians, correct me if I'm wrong): Our main speaker got THREE standing ovations — before he started speaking, in the middle of his remarks, and when he finished. I've seen some war heroes and others get TWO before, but the club is generally fairly sparing with the standing Os, and the three today can be taken as a deliberate and spontaneous statement by the members of the state's largest Rotary.

The speaker was Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott.

And far from this being a generic, institutional, I'm-your-sheriff-and-here's-what-I-do-for-a-living sort of speech out of the can, the entire thing was a spirited, sometimes humorous, ultimately deadly serious rebuttal to the criticism that the Sheriff has received over the last three weeks over the Michael Phelps affair.

First the humorous — excuse the crude phone photo above. I didn't have my real camera with me. Fortunately, videographer Andy Haworth was there, and he's going to give me a link once he gets what he has posted. Anyway, my crude shot above was taken after the sheriff had warmed up for his speech by a) donning a flak vest; b) saying "I've got my own damn' medals" and hanging them around his neck, then c) having quoted Newsweek as describing him as "blond and photogenic," putting on an Ellie Mae Clampett-style wig.

The sheriff then went on to explain that "I didn't have a choice" whether to investigate the Phelps photo that had been seen around the world, explaining that he didn't care about the picture itself per se, but he did care about what kids in Richland County saw when they looked at it. So he did what he saw as his duty, and carried the case as far as he reasonably could — without doing anything out of the ordinary — before closing it for lack of further evidence.

Then, in the spirit of late night television (where he has been the butt of a certain amount of jocularity), he offered his responses to the Top Ten criticisms he's heard in the last three weeks:

  1. It's "only marijuana," and everybody does it or has done it at some time. He singled me out at that point to say he doesn't normally read blogs, but he read what I wrote last week about someone close to me whose downward slide in life began with youthful dope smoking, and he said he had similar experiences in his life. "I've seen people die from the use of majijuana. You know, maybe that's why it's illegal." He mentioned a close friend in high school, a football hero, who he said is dead because of marijuana. "Don't give me that BS that it doesn't hurt anybody because it does; I've seen it."
  2. Marijuana "shouldn't be illegal." The sheriff explained that that wasn't his department — he enforces the law; he doesn't make it. Pointing to state Sen. Joel Lourie out in the audience, he proposed that those who would like the law changed to take it up with him and other lawmakers.
  3. His investigation was "a waste of taxpayer's money." He said a total of 16 man-hours were spent on the case out of his entire department for the three weeks, for a grand-total expenditure — based on the involved deputies' pay rates — of $322.48. He defended the modest outlay, saying "That's our job."
  4. That he was only pursuing the case "to make a name." Well, he said, "I have a name," and he's had it since his parents gave it to him 55 years ago, and he's satisfied with it. He explained the sequence of events this way: Three weeks ago, after the photo of Phelps with a bong created a worldwide sensation, a reporter asked him, "Sheriff, are you going to do anything about it?" He said he would investigate, and that was the LAST statement he made to any sort of media about the subject until his press conference closing the case a week ago. "I could have been on Leno" or any other of many media opportunities that were offered to him during the period, but which he turned down. In reply to an accusation that he was just trying to get his Warholian "15 minutes," he said, "I could have had 35 hours" of fame if he had wanted it. "When we were through with (the investigation) and I got through quail hunting," he had a press conference "and that was it."
  5. "I was running for re-election — Dadgummit," he thought he just got through doing that (which he did, having been re-elected in November).
  6. "I didn't have nothing better to do." Oh, yeah, the sheriff said — he is SO bored as sheriff. And here he got pretty passionate. Yeah, he said, he's got other things to do, and he's doing them. He referred in particular to the Denny Terrace attacks — the brutal beating death of Linda Derrick and the beating and stabbing of Carolyn Webb. The suspect, Elbert Wallace, is one the sheriff has described as a "crackhead," and who Solicitor Barney Giese said "really did terrorize a community for a long period of time." Mrs. Derrick's sister Susan Porth said "My precious sister’s life was taken so this man could get high." The sheriff said today, "That's why that lady's dead, because of drugs," making the point that the suspect didn't start smoking crack. His point in bringing this up was to say that he's doing his job on these more important cases, and that's what he has homicide investigators for. But he also has a narcotics unit, and it is also doing its job. And that unit did its job in the Phelps case. By the way, the sheriff noted, nobody got arrested in the case for being in the famous bong picture. Rather, "We arrested 8 people who were stupid enough to have drugs on them at the… time when we went to… talk with them." That's what they were charged with.
  7. "I'm running for governor." He thought that was pretty bizarre. He wondered what he'd do if he were elected governor — "I'd be like the dog that caught the car." Again, he pointed to Joel Lourie if you wanted to talk to a potential gubernatorial candidate (but as readers of The State and this blog know, Vincent Sheheen is running instead of either Joel or James Smith).
  8. "It was only a college dope party." Lott said cops had been to this house twice previously because of thefts associated with the fact that thieves knew there were drugs on the premises. "This was a drug house that was a menace to the neighborhood."
  9. Quoting a letter he received, "Michael Phelps is a true American hero, and you are a true American ass." He said it was from "another disgusted taxpayer" — in Michigan. The sheriff went on to repeat what he had said earlier about his national fan mail: "I don't care what a dope smoker in California thinks about me."
  10. Finally, "Why?" Why the investigation, that is. "How could I not? How could I just ignore it?" He said it was his job to take those medals from around the neck of the guy in the photo and investigate, and he did, and that was that, and "I can go to bed at night knowing I've done my job."

It was right after he finished with his top ten that the sheriff got his second standing ovation.

In response to a question, he went on to talk about the fact that "Mexico is in a war right now," with a lot of people getting killed, because of the U.S. market for drugs — that is to say, a market driven by demand from "Michael Phelps and college kids" and others in this country. "Every time we light up a joint here," we in this country are contributing to that violence.

Anyway, the support for the sheriff in that room was pretty solid. Good for Leon.