Marijuana Legalization Could Come to Texas, and Law Students are Helping Figure How
"Living in South Texas, you really see the substance flood high school and college campuses and neighborhoods, without any regulation, in a completely illicit market," Bhalesha, set to be a third-year student at the South Texas College of Law, told Hair Balls. "I've spent my entire life seeing a strong need [for regulation]."
Experiences in Houston and Austin crafted his views. Academic research buttressed his conclusions. And then, in 2012, after letters to legislators effected little change, a blog post from Rice University's Baker Institute Drug Policy Program lit an idea. Bhalesha approached his dean. What was the potential for a crossover? What was the potential for a joint project between STCL and one of the pre-eminent drug-focused think tanks in the nation?
"We really have an amazing dean -- he's really forward-thinking," Bhalesha related. "The stars just aligned."
Months after that initial notion, and after Bhalesha had contacted those affiliated with the Baker Institute's DPP arm, he's produced a 22-page paper (below) examining the realities and challenges facing marijuana legislation within Texas. Surveying tax policy and enforcement methods, detailing relationships between marijuana and tobacco, observing opportunities to reduce adolescent marijuana usage and increase state revenue, Bhalesha has taken a fresh eye to the issue of marijuana enforcement in Texas.
Furthermore, the paper comes at an opportune time, published on the heels of the ACLU's recent report blasting Texas for the racial disparities in marijuana-related arrest rates.
"I'd say Texas definitely needs [evaluation], arguably more so than California or Colorado, because of the proximity to the border, because of the ACLU report, because it's among the top states spending the most money arresting the most people, all while being less effective," Bhalesha says. "That's how desperate Texas is."