UPDATED: Cannabis, Texas: How Close Are We to Legalization in the Lone Star State?
|Photo by abbybatchelder via flickr|
The 2013 polls show that the majority of Texans support legalization or decriminalization of cannabis.
According to major polls conducted in Texas, 58 percent of Texans support outright legalization, and 79 percent of Texans oppose jail time for marijuana possession. That basically summarizes the collective viewpoint of Texans on marijuana policy for 2013, and it clearly shows support for some sort of marijuana reform. Not too shabby for our conservative state, now is it.
Groups like Texas NORML and MPP, or Marijuana Policy Project, that lobby for cannabis reform at a state and national level, grew exponentially during 2013.
Photo by Cannabis Culture via flickr
From the High Times Doobie Awards in Austin to the Texas Regional NORML Conference, there were more than 100 cannabis events in Texas during 2013.
NORML expanded into new territory, with chapters opening in El Paso and Lubbock, bringing the total number of NORML advocacy groups in Texas to 13, and the number of cannabis organizations in Texas to at least 15. They also created the Patient Alliance for Cannabis Therapeutics, along with Austin 420, to provide outreach, education, patient empowerment, and advocacy for medical marijuana use.
The United States v. Hemp Farming came to a head.
Hemp prohibition began back in the late 1930's, when Congress banned the "violent and dangerous drug." In reality, though, hemp -- the actual hemp plant, not the marijuana misnomer -- is nothing more than a plant related to marijuana by way of the Cannabaceae plant family. It's also probably one of the most useful fibers in the world, and it contains a very low THC content -- about 0.3 percent -- and cannot be used to get high. It's still illegal, though, despite the actual facts that prove the illegitimacy of those "violent and dangerous" claims.
In June 2013, the U.S. House of Representatives voted on an amendment to the annual agriculture bill that would allow farmers to grow hemp. Removing the ban on hemp would be a major milestone for farmers, as hemp is extremely easy to grow, great for aerating the soil, and is used in multiple industries within the United States. We use a ton of it in this country, but it all has to be imported due to the restrictions on growing it.
Ultimately, the bill failed with a final count of 195 to 234, due in part to the majority of Texas House representatives voting against it, with some claiming that the passage of the bill would make the war on drugs more difficult, since hemp physically resembles marijuana.
There's a bright side, though. Out of the 36 Texas representatives in the U.S. House, 10 logical, educated representatives voted for it. Here they are, in case you'd like to send them a card made of hemp or something for a job well done.
Joaquin Castro (D)
Henry R. Cuellar (D)
John Culberson (R)
Lloyd Doggett (D)
Sheila Jackson-Lee (D)
Eddie Bernice Johnson (D)
Robert Francis "Beto" O'Rourke (D)
Ted Poe (R)
Steve Stockman (R)
Filemon Vela (D)
Law enforcement showed signs of solidarity with the legalization movement.
Austin Police Chief Art Acevedo stated that his priority is violent crime, not marijuana. He confirmed support for Attorney General Eric Holder's stance on mandatory minimums as well. Lubbock's police chief was receptive to the new NORML chapter in his city. Waco officials are considering a removal of the highly ineffective DARE program.
LEAP, or Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, a nonprofit organization of criminal justice professionals who "bear personal witness to the wasteful futility and harms of our current drug policies," openly rallies for policy change of marijuana laws.
All in all, Texas showed some real progress in regard to marijuana reform. Support for responsible cannabis use no longer causes a quick political death for Texas politicians, which means things are definitely on the right track. And we all know we're cooler than some of the other states, with our Panhandle and all, so chances are good we'll continue to make progress in our own ways. Will we be the next Colorado? Probably not, but there are sure signs we aren't still stuck in the weed dark ages, either.