Thursday, August 05, 2010

Medical pot in Texas?

Julian Aguilar at the Texas Tribune reports something I'd heard rumored: That there will be a significant push to allow medical marijuana in Texas over the next couple of sessions. Supporters:
cite a poll that found a majority of Texans support legalizing marijuana for medicinal purposes. A University of Texas/Texas Tribune poll conducted in May showed a similar finding, with the majority of Texans favoring one or more methods of legalization: 42 percent of Texans were open to the idea of legalizing marijuana, 28 percent say possession of small amounts should be legal, and 14 percent said any amount should be legal. Twenty-seven percent said it should be legal for medical purposes only, and another 27 percent said it should be illegal under any circumstances.

“If [those numbers] hold even close, then this isn’t really a political liability with the voting public,” Schimberg says. “It’s just a mental block with the representatives and the senators.”
Ironically, in the past efforts to wholesale reduce penalties for low-level marijuana possession have gotten farther in the legislative process than medical marijuana bills. In 2005 a bill to reduce marijuana possession of less than two ounces to a ticket only offense passed unanimously out of the House Criminal Jurisprudence Committee without any testimony in opposition; even Debbie Riddle, one of the most conservative members of the Legislature, voted to reduce pot penalties. Unfortunately, then-Speaker Tom Craddick and the Calendars Committee would not allow the legislation to get a House floor vote (where we believed at the time we could count a majority), ostensibly to "protect" members from a controversial vote. (Now that we have a different Speaker, maybe it would be worth taking another crack at that bill.)

By contrast, medical marijuana couldn't even get a hearing in committee the last couple of sessions. I think that's because counties have major practical and financial interests in reducing pot penalties from a B to C misdemeanor. They would get fine revenue instead of spending money on incarceration, and wouldn't have to pay indigent defense costs for defendants who couldn't afford a lawyer, plus it would reduce overcrowding pressure on county jails - a win-win all around from counties' perspective. By contrast, the loose, fractious coalition of doctors, patients and pot activists behind medical marijuana initiatives has had trouble getting its broad but shallow support at the Legislature to gel, and there's not nearly as compelling a financial argument for medical pot from government's perspective compared to reducing pot penalties overall.

I wish medical marijuana supporters luck and think it'd be great if they could get the job done. I suspect, though, with the coming budget crunch, it might be more difficult to push this issue up the Legislature's priority list than to win a full-blown reduction in marijuana penalties overall.

14 comments:

Scott Stevens said...

While there would be a beneficial financial effect for the counties at first blush, the current laws regarding conviction of possession of marijuana would likely have an unexpected effect.

Because a conviction for POMJ is much more likely at the JP and municipal court level than deferred adjudication, and because a conviction results in an automatic driver's license suspension, there would likely be a sharp increase in driving while license invalid cases. This would not only be the result of the direct suspensions, but also of the suspensions that would come due to surcharges that would eventually not be paid. The new indigence programs might help alleviate this, but it may well be that the increase in DWLI's would be overwhelming.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

Ouch! Good point! Of course, most of those are already getting their licenses revoked on the Class Bs. I have never seen data on point - what percentage of Class B pot offenses would you guess end in deferred instead of convictions?

I recently watched a TX Senate Criminal Justice Committee meeting on DWI from July online and the liaison from the Texas Center for the Judiciary advocate that the Legislature eliminate ALL administrative license suspensions except those required by the feds. I was kind of stunned; it's a pretty breathtaking suggestion considering the Lege has been going in the opposite direction for a long time. But of course, as you're pointing out, losing your license for drug crimes is a federal requirement.

FWIW, I also saw that South Carolina this year passed a resolution condemning the mandate, which they rightly view as a violation of federalism.

Anonymous said...

drugs? no thank you

Anonymous said...

http://store.infinitecoolness.com/coolposters/personalities/taxi/taxitvposter010.jpg

Prison Doc said...

Medical Pot is a joke. Granted, a few rare cases may benefit from it but for the vast majority of really sick patients there is just no medical need.

A more sensible approach is just to work toward decriminalization of smaller amounts. I think that makes a lot more sense than trying to pretend that there is a large medical need.

Anonymous said...

Hmmm. Has anyone every considered the reason for not wanting to legalize drugs might be because of the loss of political contributions from the "cartels"? Let's face it, if drugs are legalized the whole illegal drug market would collapse...AND the benefits (from taxing it) would shift to 'our side'. Pot is begnin compared to some of the legal drugs now being fed to us with catastrophic and sometimes permanent side effects. Let's legalize, tax and reduce our inmate population...not to mention our court system and make room for some of the more dastardly crimes. JMHO

R. Shackleford said...

Pot was outlawed in the beginning for purely political reasons, and it remains outlawed for purely political reasons. But I think that will change, and deservedly so. It's just flat common sense. Texas, though, will be among the very last to see reason.

celtictexan said...

Too many people on here going by anonymous. Makes it look like the same guy is playing devils advocate.

Scott Stevens said...

While the suspension for POMJ is mandated by federal law and Texas has fallen right in line and not refused the federal funding that would be denied if we did not require those suspension, there is NO federal requirement of which I am aware that would require surcharges.

Eliminating all admin suspensions may be overkill, as some people really do need to have their privileges curtailed. Perhaps leaving in place the medical advisory review revocation process would be the way to go. (That process has other issues not germain to this thread).

Either way, kicking this down to JPs and Muni judges is a poor solution. It may be the best one available among the other poor choices, but if so it should be implemented with more common sense than has been used on much legislation in the past.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

Scott, if reducing penalties is the "best [solution] available among the other poor choices," shouldn't it be done? What's a better option?

Scott Stevens said...

I don't know that there is a better solution, other than eliminating the surcharge. As to the overall marijuana issue, legalization seems to be the solution that is best. Legalization of alcohol all but eliminated the bootlegging business in America (some "dry" areas remain and there is some bootlegging in those areas and tax evasion still spurs some illegal alcohol production and distribution, but far less than in the past).

I do see moving the level down as an improvement, but it should not happen "in a vacuum." It should be combined with elimination of surcharges, and perhaps with shortened license suspensions, or, in place of suspensions, restriction of licenses (limited to certain hours, places and/or purposes similar to those on occupational licenses)

Anonymous said...

let me try this again

Drugs? No thank you :)

didn't anyone watch Taxi in the 80s? sheesh i'm old

Hook Em Horns said...

OK...hang on a sec...medical pot v. closing some prisons. I see a correlation.

Keith said...

If you'd like to contact me, email me @ khelms19@gmail.com or keith.helms@mavs.uta.edu, if you are a UTA student or faculty member.

I do not fear confrontation and open debate. To the contrary, I invite it.

Medical marijuana helps sick people take less drugs to treat their conditions. It also may treat and prevent cancer and other age-related illnesses.

It is essentially an "anti-aging drug," says Robert Melamede, PhD and professor and former chair of biology at Colorado University.

One conventional drug may commonly combat one symptom and that one drug may carry with it a host of negative side effects...

Chemo therapy may require a plethora of pills for...

Pain, appetite loss and nausea..

Medical marijuana effectively treats all three without the same threat of addiction and abuse as conventional, toxic counterparts.

In regards to conventional medicines, medical marijuana doesn't open gateways. It closes them.

Furthermore, the "Gateway theory" suggesting that marijuana leads to harder drugs, like heroine or cocaine, has never been scientifically proven. It is a theory without validity.

The fact remains that most marijuana smokers don't try heroin or cocaine.

Andrew Weil, MD, is a man of solid credientials in the field of Integrative medicine. He has studied all drugs objectively and dispassionately throughout his glorified, professional career.

In Doctor Weil's article, "Cannabis Rx: Cutting Through the Misinformation," he points out the history of medical use and recent findings showing that cannabinoids, the chemical compounds of medical marijuana, inhibit the growth and kill various kinds of cancer cells in mice and test tubes.

Cannabis is the scientific name for marijuana. The word "marijuana" dates back to a time much like today, where sensationalistic propaganda went unchecked against factual, scientific information.

Here is the article, Please read:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/andrew-weil-md/can-cannabis-treat-cancer_b_701005.html

"Prison Doc," no disrespect, but your comment was a joke. Every word was filth. I question everything you said. Please read Dr. Weil's article and begin educating yourself, or explain how your understanding topples his and Professor Melamede's.

Too many sick people are denied access to a safe medicine that has never in all of recorded history killed one single person.

Marijuana toxicity has been thoroughly studied.

Findings show that the overdose potential of marijuana is physically unattainable. It has, however, been theorized that smoking marijuana for 15 minutes at a rate of 1000 lbs/minute may cause death.

Compassion grows out from the seeds of Education.

It's time to educate Texans.

Thank You,

Keith Helms (non-anonymous)