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On Vermont Decriminalizing Marijuana and Jupiter, Florida’s “The Square Grouper”


Crimcast is a virtual resource devoted to critical conversations about criminology and criminal justice issues. Our blogposts, twitter feeds, podcasts and other content provide an overview of trends, research, commentary and events of interest to criminal justice practitioners, academics and the general public. CrimCast is sponsored by The Center for Crime and Popular Culture, St. Francis College, Brooklyn, NY.

On Vermont Decriminalizing Marijuana and Jupiter, Florida’s “The Square Grouper”

Nickie Phillips

This past week, some colleagues and I decided to have some downtime in Jupiter, Florida. One colleague was called “Hurricane Sue,” because she seemed to attract storms wherever she went, in and out of the Hurricane Belt, and in and out of season. They affectionately call me “CSI Demetra,” in honor of my attraction to sights of criminal and criminal justice activity. I wrote about just such a one, the ancient Dungeon of San Cristobal Fort in San Juan, Puerto Rico. While viewing Jupiter Inlet Lighthouse a historic 1860 lighthouse built on the easternmost point in Florida, a tour operated by the Loxahatchee River Historical Society, our guide pointed out that we could see across the water to a restaurant called “The Square Grouper.” The Square Grouper is such a popular tiki bar that both the woman who gave me my last haircut (in New York) and the man seated next to me on the plane down to Florida (from New York) recommended visiting the place. Their comments regarded the tiki décor, the laid back attitude, the Jimmy Buffet musical drop-ins for a home-town Margarittaville.

Me, I found out (from our guide at the Jupiter Inlet Lighthouse) that the Square Grouper was called that because smugglers used to drop plastic wrapped marijuana bricks (a/k/a “keys” for kilos) to wash up for collection by enterprising businesspeople. Needless to say, this intrigued me. Moreover, while some of my colleagues climbed up the lighthouse, I checked into Twitter to find out that Vermont’s governor had signed a bill decriminalizing marijuana, becoming the 17th state to do so. The irony of reading this while within visual distance of the Square Grouper was not lost upon me, and during a dinner meeting with my colleagues at Sinclair’s Ocean Grill the Jupiter Beach Resort and Spa, I commented on “the hilarity value” of derivation of the Square Grouper’s name, which could be likely to find its way into the semesterly “grass class” methodology discussion (no participant observation allowed or encouraged, but a great way to get students discussing and assessing methodology in sociology, anthropology, legal studies and criminal justice classes, where traditional reference to readings is an exercise perceived as akin to a dental visit sans Novocain).

As an afterword, Hurricane Sue had a hurricane to drink during a subsequent – and grass-free – visit to the Square Grouper.

Demetra M. Pappas, JD, MSc, PhD, currently teaches in the Department of Sociology and Criminal Justice at St. Francis College, where she was named the 2011/2012 SGA Faculty Member of the Year, for her innovative teaching methods and student mentoring. Her first book, The Euthanasia/Assisted Suicide Debate, (Greenwood Press: 2012) has been nominated for the 2013 British Society of Criminology Book Prize. She also writes about dramaturgy, culinary culture, visual sociology and criminal justice issues.