Saturday, March 26, 2005

Marijuana, medical and otherwise

Raich v. Ashcroft, which will determine whether the federal government may prosecute medical marijuana patients who are protected under state law, may be decided soon, and Pete Guither as usual has a good preview. Meanwhile, Loretta received a visit from the feds over an angry web comment, not hers, about the Jonathon Magbie case - he was the quadriplegic arrested for medical marijuana who died in the Washington D.C. jail.

Texas' pending medical marijuana legislation, HB 658, has been referred to the House Criminal Jurisprudence Committee, which is chaired by one of the bill's co-sponsors, Rep. Terry Keel, R-Austin, but it has not been set for a hearing yet. As always, check with Texans for Medical Marijuana to find out how you can help on that bill.

The other big pending marijuana-related legislation in Texas is HB 254, which would restructure penalties for low-level pot possession to become ticketable offenses. In the comments, Taylor cited an action alert from NORML asking folks to call the committee members. I think that's likely to be helpful if you're from a committee member's district, and less so if you're not.

If you live in Texas, though, and you don't have a representative on that committee, I'd encourage you to call your local sheriff and county judge to ask them to call the committee in support of HB 254. Tell them it will free up space in the local jail, save money on indigent defense and incarceration costs, and boost income, for once, instead of expenses from the tickets given by sheriff's deputies. Tell them the bill is not soft on crime - in Columbia, Missouri when they restructured penalties, enforcement actually increased! In many (especially larger) counties, jails are full and county commissioners are considering issuing new debt to build more. HB 254 helps counties in real, pragmatic ways, if they can muster the political courage to call the committee and say so. Try to get the local police chief to speak out: many police administrators in private hate these low-level pot busts because they take officers away from more important enforcement actions. Many would secretly welcome the change, I've occasionally been assured, but out of fear, they never speak up. Those type of institutional voices have more weight than average Joes, sad to say, and the committee didn't hear those messages, at least, from those messengers, at the hearing, even though their half-expected opposition was conspicuously absent.

Finally, check out what Professor Becker and Judge Posner have to say about the War on (Some) Drugs.

1 comment:

Taylor said...

Scott, thanks for bringing the marijuana issue forward, including the medicinal one. You make a good point about contacting some of our local authorities that could make a larger difference.

One U.S. Newswire report recently stated that the Raich v Ashcroft case could be decided Tuesday or Wednesday of next week. Raich's website says that it is possible, but could very well not happen and does not believe this report mainly by the Drug Free America Foundation truly knows if the ruling will take place then.

Just wanted to throw up these links to make it easy to send your letters in to your reps:

Also you could visit the good folks at Texas NORML who did a fantastic job testifying in favor of H.B. 254.