BRADENTON -- The cafeteria inside Police Athletic League was packed Thursday. Concerned citizens and students and alumni from the Manatee County Sheriff's Office Citizens Law Enforcement Academy gathered over spaghetti and meatballs, salad and sweet desserts such as dump cake and brownies.
This wasn't an ordinary meal, though.
About 200 people attended "Supper with the Sheriff" where Manatee County's top law enforcement officer, Brad Steube, directed harsh criticism on the idea of legalizing marijuana for medical use.
Steube began by briefing the crowd on the 3.6 percent drop in Manatee County crime so far in 2013 , then mentioned the Napier animal abuse case where hundreds of animals had to be rescued from what police call "deplorable" conditions.
Steube also updated the condition of Lt. Robert Mealy, who was shot in the arm April 14 by 24-year-old robbery suspect Ross Chrisman, who shot himself to death during an exchange of fire with sheriff's deputies. Mealy is already back at work, Steube said.
"I'm just here to tell you today that last Saturday, I was listening to the radio -- my wife and I were going somewhere -- and I heard Lt. Mealy on the radio. He's already back to work. Didn't hit any bones, didn't tear any muscles or ligaments," said Steube.
Steube spent much of his address decrying the concept of medical marijuana, which is at the center of a proposed constitutional amendment to decriminalize marijuana for medical use in Florida.
Steube dissected parts of the amendment language, including a section where people authorized to use medical marijuana would not have to notify their employer.
"How many people will be under the influence of medical marijuana while at work and be in charge of your children or grandchildren? How many of them are going to be at the daycare center?" he asked the crowd. "You won't know because they don't have to declare it for anybody."
After the supper ended, 71-year-old Marlin Swartzentruber said he agreed with Steube. "I think it would be detrimental to the society," the Bradenton resident said, and lead to a lot of crime and accidents.
"I always enjoy his (Steube's) talks, but I especially appreciated his talk on the medical marijuana issue," said Barbara Stewart, who lives in Manatee County. "Even though I had already made up my decision how I was going to vote... that just solidifies that." Amaris Castillo, Law Enforcement/Island Reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7051. You can follow her on Twitternote>