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Mary Jane wont advance our country, our people one iota
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I came across a quote of John Maxwell's which is apropos with regard to marijuana use.

"You can't go uphill with downhill habits."

That just about sums up my feeling on the matter.

How can America make progress in its economic standing when the country is going to pot?

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Pot has been a huge topic in California since passage of Prop. 64 in November; and also in Ceres with the City Council addressing restrictions for indoor cannabis growing, with the possibility of allowing commercial indoor medicinal marijuana operations.

So about marijuana, is it as harmless as some suggest? According to, marijuana smoke contains about 60 chemicals called cannabinoids. Marijuana smoke is also filled with many of the same chemicals as tobacco smoke, including ammonia, hydrogen cyanide, and formaldehyde. Some of these chemicals are known to cause cancer.

There's no proof that smoking marijuana causes lung cancer like cigarettes do. But people who smoke pot do show signs of damage and precancerous changes in their lungs, especially if they also smoke cigarettes. And a study published in 2013 in Cancer Causes & Control found that heavy marijuana smoking might raise the risk of lung cancer.

Pot smoking leads to other lung ill-effects, too, such as coughing and wheezing.

People who smoke marijuana have changes in their blood vessels that increase the risk of heart attack and stroke, the New England Journal of Medicine found.

Regular pot users are more likely to be diagnosed with schizophrenia, especially when they have a family history of the condition. Marijuana can have effects beyond the lungs and brain. These include anxiety, depression, increased heart rate, increased risk of heart attack (within the first hour after smoking) and suicidal thoughts in teens.

So tell me again how recreational pot use is good for society?

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With opioid addiction on the rise, it's not surprising that the death rate for white, less-educated Americans is rising. Studies attribute the higher death rate to increases in poisonings and chronic liver disease which reflect alcohol abuse and drug overdoses. Meanwhile the death rate is falling for Latinos and blacks.

But it may not just be about people becoming hooked on addictive painkillers. New York Times writer Andrew J. Cherlin thinks it's about loss of hope. He suggests that many whites without college degrees remember when opportunities were better in their father's America and lament the past. They believe jobs are harder to find and feel buying power slipping away. Latinos and blacks, on the other hand, look back to a time when opportunities were as grand and see a better future.

Those without hope seek escape - chiefly booze and drugs. And with it, for some, death.

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Please understand me. I think smoking is stupid and injurious to one's health. I watched a lot of my dad's family die from cigarette smoke. I don't advocate smoking. But I do advocate freedom to use tobacco, with, of course, the exceptions of our current restrictions, such as smoking inside of restaurants and businesses. That's why I bristle every time the local American Lung Association comes out with its annual report that condemns our local cities about not doing enough "tobacco control."

For sure, tobacco is harmful to one's health. No debate there. But I can think of other things that are harmful to health, such as excessive fast food or alcohol consumption, but so long as the products are legal, people have a right to use them.

So, who cares if the American Lung Association comes out with their annual browbeating report card grading cities on how they've approached laws making it tougher to buy and use tobacco products? By the way, it gave a "D" grade to the cities of Hughson, Turlock, and Riverbank, and an "F" to Ceres, Modesto, Waterford, Patterson, Newman, Oakdale and unincorporated areas of the county. As far as I'm concerned, the worse the grade the better the cities treat the rights of citizens. Essentially, an "A" grade in preserving freedom.

What is the answer to curbing tobacco use? Not in controls. (Remember Prohibition didn't work either). How about education?

I remember my elementary school being visited by a health advocate (it may have been the school nurse) who had the smoking dummy and we saw what a cigarette did to his angel hair fiberglass "lungs." The lung that didn't smoke was clean; the smoke-exposed lung was filthy. It was a poignant memory I never forgot. I never wanted my pink healthy lungs to look like tilapia stomped in an ash pile.

In high school we had an ex-smoker come in for an assembly. She spoke through an electrolarynx, one of those voice amplifiers, because her voice box had been removed because of cancer. It made a believer out of some.

Why don't we grade our schools on how they are educating our kids on the dangers of smoking? That might prove embarrassing now wouldn't it?

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Hold your horses. I hear some of you thinking: Jeff, you're saying don't interfere with tobacco but restrictions on pot are okay? Yes and no. One of the best laws we passed was the no smoking in restaurants and public places law. Why? Because second-hand in an enclosed space hurts others.

There is no evidence that suggests tobacco smoking increases car accidents like pot does. Washington State voters legalized pot in 2012 and authorities there noted 436 fatal crashes in 2013, with drivers involved in 40 crashes testing positive for THC, the active chemical in marijuana. In 2014 they found that of 462 fatal crashes, 85 drivers tested positive for THC. The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety said there was no sign of an increase in fatal crashes among those with marijuana in their systems until a full 39 weeks after marijuana possession was legalized in the state.

I haven't heard of people flipping out under the influence of tobacco like I have heard about pot. I have never heard of anyone being shot to death in a raid of backyard tobacco plants like in September 2014 when a thief broke into a backyard pot grow in Waterford and the innocent girlfriend of the grower was shot to death.

There is evidence suggesting that pot increases crime. Eighty percent of the men arrested for crimes in Sacramento in 2012 tested positive for at least one illegal drug. Marijuana was the most commonly detected drug, found in 54 percent of those arrested. The other two drugs, in order of detection, were cocaine and methamphetamine.

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I received a phone call from an upset landscaper who says unlicensed landscapers are stealing away his business.

Robert has been in the business for 45 years and is increasingly finding it difficult to make money - since he has higher overhead because he plays by the rules and buys licenses - with all the "illegal" providers undercutting him. "In the last 10 years it's gotten so out of hand," he told me. "I think it's kind of like I'm being discriminated against because I try to do everything the right way and work in this town but yet everybody else gets away with doing it wrong."

Pretending to be an inquiring customer, he surveyed 42 landscapers and said 40 didn't know a license was necessary. When he complained to Ceres City Hall, he was told that the city's single code enforcement officer doesn't have time to go around and verify who has a business license and who doesn't.

"It costs me $10 to $12 to do a $20 lawn, by the time you break it all down with the insurance and license and everything else. They go and do the lawn for $10 and there's three or four guys in the truck. It's not a fair playing field at all anymore."
Not only is competition hurting his bottom line, he suggests that those cheap rates may not be a bargain when one considers that most fail to carry liability insurance. An ex-customer of his in Modesto hired a landscaper who damaged a guy's eye on her property and her homeowners' insurance had to cover costs.

Stanislaus County requires sprayers of chemicals like Roundup to have a Qualified Applicator Certificate (QAC).

So that leaves you, Ceres residents, to be the enforcers. Ask to see a business and spray applicator license. If they don't, tell them to come back when they have one.

It's the right thing to do.

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The Ceres Courier's Facebook page saw more chatter last week about projected growth. This time they were comments attached to the posting about my column on the matter.

There were two very unflattering comments posted about Ceres of which you should be aware. Casandra Kilgore wrote: "After living in Ceres for 37 years, I moved across the country. My neighbors are wonderful, I love coming home every day and the scenery is heavenly! So glad I left, no more neighborly theft."

"RicknPat Lee" posted: "I lived in Ceres for 30 years had to get the hell out. It just got too overcrowded. No peace at all. The loud music, loud people. Ceres Police didn't care so I got out. Now I have peace and quiet. I love the weather. No more high utility bill. Ceres is a nasty dirty city. Didn't always be that way. Really sad."

It's too bad that the most vocal tend to be the most negative. Something tells me that with a population of 47,000, there are more who are content and happy to call Ceres home. But I think all should ask: Am I a good neighbor?

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Climate changers are at it again.

There is a letter in Science magazine from a Mississippi State faculty member who is examining lessons gleaned from the recent Oroville dam incident. He writes that the problems with the dam's primary spillway, along with a levee breach near Manteca, "clearly demonstrate how extreme events, land-cover and land-use changes, and the emerging climatic changes can threaten the integrity of our aging dams and levees."

Assistant Professor Farshid Vahedifard suggests that ignoring the "underlying relationships between multiple events can lead to underestimation of extreme events and their impacts."

To be sure, rain can erode our infrastructure, such as cement and asphalt. But does Vahedifard, operating on a $212,000 National Science Foundation grant (taxpayers money), really need to study what we already know. It's not climate change - if there is such a thing - that is our biggest threat; it's Democratic lawmakers who have long ignored storage infrastructure needs.

Do I need to remind the Prof that our state Senator Anthony Cannella said in 2013: "There's like a Holy Jihad against water storage. I don't understand it. I really don't get it."?

The letter goes on to say we must "close the gap in our understanding in terms of uncertainty in climatic extremes under a changing climate and their impacts on the resilience of infrastructure."

Umm, hasn't weather always been an uncertainty? Sometimes we have dry years and sometimes wet years.

Climatic extremes? We've had a warming of the planet in the past century of .8 degrees. Extreme eh? Is anything, the planet's temperature has been remarkably stable.

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Each time I see a bad driver on the road, pulling a last-minute pull-in-front-of-me stunt, I verbally mutter, "Join the Planning Commission!" That's my way of blowing off steam about those who don't plan ahead to make lane changes with not so much as a turn signal.

Turn signals were not put in cars to be ignored. Use them and you might avoid an accident - and a ticket.

Likewise, it seems not many drivers are aware of a new law that requires drivers to move over a lane, if safe to do so, or slow down, when passing vehicles with flashing amber lights. That includes Caltrans vehicles in the center divider of 99. Or a police cruiser or tow truck. If the maneuver described above would be unsafe, slow to a reasonable speed that is safe for existing weather, road, and vehicular or pedestrian traffic conditions.

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Isn't it strange how nobody cared to attend any town hall meetings held by Congressman Jeff Denham while Obama was president? But now that we have a new president, people on the left have been clamoring to go face-to-face with Denham since he believes the so-called Affordable Health Care Act (which should be called the Unaffordable Health Care Act) needs to be dismantled. More like they have been licking their chops to create a local media circus at a Denham event. Looks like they get their chance at 6 p.m. on April 17 at the Larsa Banquet Hall, 2107 E. Monte Vista Ave., Turlock. Other public officials will be there as well.

Do you have any feedback about this column? Let Jeff know by emailing him at He will read it, promise.