Advocates for medical marijuana reform are targeting what may seem an unlikely demographic: senior South Floridians.
And Tuesday morning, they spelled out their message in sky-high letters across two billboards along Sample Road about a mile east of Powerline Road. Tinted sky blue and cloud pink, the 14-by-48-foot billboards are on the north side of the street, visible to eastbound drivers.
“Legalize Medical Marijuana” shouts one, with a godlike hand extending from the heavens, a marijuana leaf in its palm. Facing it is the photo of a senior in a wheelchair and the caption “I’m a Patient Not a Criminal.”
Down the road apiece, just after a billboard advertising a service for clogged drains, stands the second big sign. “Reschedule Medical Marijuana” it reads. Below it is a quote from former administrative Judge Francis L. Young’s ruling about pot in a 1988 case: “One of the Safest Therapeutically Active Substances Known to Man.”
The billboards urge viewers — some 54,500 cars pass that section of Sample Road daily, according to the state Department of Transportation — to learn more at The Silver Tour, the billboards’ sponsor.
The Silver Tour was founded by Robert Platshorn, of West Palm Beach, former operator of a ’70s pot smuggling operation out of Miami labeled the Black Tuna Gang. Platshorn was released from federal prison about four years ago.
Platshorn, 69, is dedicated to enlightening seniors about the benefits of medical marijuana. He has preached his gospel at temples and community centers. Marijuana, he says, can alleviate maladies common to the elderly, and even replace sleeping pills with unwanted side effects.
“Wouldn’t it be kinder to give Mom a joint to smoke and let her go to sleep with a smile on her face?” he said.
While many young people already support legalization of medicinal cannabis, seniors bring a special advantage to the cause. “Seniors are an active political force,” Platshorn said. “Seniors vote, seniors have time to contact their representives.”
The last Silver Tour show, at a Boyton Beach synagogue in January, resulted in 400 calls to state lawmakers from attendees, Platshorn said.
To celebrate the billboards, about a dozen pro-legalization figures gathered at the All Stars Sports Bar Grill in a strip plaza near the signs.
There was the legendary Irvin Rosenfeld, 59, the Fort Lauderdale stockbroker who has been smoking some 300 joints a month — approved and provided by the government — to keep a bone disease in check. Also on hand was Charlie Strout, 56, a disabled Marine Corps vet from Pompano Beach who is denied what he feels would ease his spinal injury: pot.
“I would love to try it,” he said. “In talking to the doctors, they said it would be very beneficial.”
Strout spent $5,000 of his own money to pay for the billboards, which will remain up for a month.
Platshorn is raising money for more billboards and senior tours, and has a 30-minute infomercial in production. “I really want to get something done in this state,” he said.
Commuters Tuesday noticed two billboards that appeared along Sample Road west of Interstate 95 pleading the case for the legalization of marijuana for medicinal purposes. The signs were sponsored by the Silver Tour.