Thursday, February 19, 2015

Pot push prioritizes less government; 'legalization' in Texas not on table in 2015

Judging from the press, the Marijuana Policy Project's lobby day at the Texas capitol yesterday appears to have gone well. See coverage here, here, here, here, here, here, and here. Much of the coverage mentioned the professional presentation of lobby-day participants in contrast to stoner stereotypes, which is a good sign, though some reporters still can't discuss the issue without giggling. Happily, it sounds from the coverage like Speaker Joe Straus may be open to allowing bills reducing penalties for low-level marijuana possession to get a vote on the House floor. Bills to that effect have cleared committee in the past but never seem to get set on the House floor calendar.

Meanwhile the press, in reductionist fashion, continues to frame most marijuana issues as being about "legalization." However, though a majority of Texans support that, that's not what's at stake this legislative session. Instead, the bill with the most momentum appears to be Rep. Joe Moody's legislation to create a civil penalty for low-level pot possession, a move which would have kept nearly 65,000 people last year from being arrested and taken to jail while still punishing them. Other legislation by Rep. Harold Dutton and Gene Wu would reduce penalties for small amounts to a Class C misdemeanor.

As Grits argued in a recent guest column in the Dallas Morning News, I don't view such bills through a "legalization" lens so much as from a "less government" perspective. Jails are a major driver of county property taxes. And, "If you want to cut the budget in a meaningful, sustainable way, you must identify something government is currently doing that costs money and choose not to do it."

Choosing to stop arresting and jailing pot smokers and paying for their indigent defense costs fits that bill precisely. Bottom line: If you want government to cost less, make it do less stuff. And this is one of those things the Legislature could just let the locals stop doing.


Anonymous said...

I thought this meta analysis on marijuana smoking and lung cancer was worth sharing given how controversial this subject seems to be.

"To investigate the association between cannabis smoking and lung cancer risk, data on 2,159 lung cancer cases and 2,985 controls were pooled from 6 case-control studies in the US, Canada, UK, and New Zealand within the International Lung Cancer Consortium.

Results from our pooled analyses provide little evidence for an increased risk of lung cancer among habitual or long-term cannabis smokers, although the possibility of potential adverse effect for heavy consumption cannot be excluded."

By comparison, tobacco smoking increases lung cancer risk by 15 to 30 times the baseline (that is up to 3000% greater chance than non smokers) while little evidence exists for any increased risk in marijuana only smokers.

Anonymous said...

Source for the meta study:

Int J Cancer. 2015 Feb 15;136(4):894-903. doi: 10.1002/ijc.29036. Epub 2014 Jun 30.
Cannabis smoking and lung cancer risk: Pooled analysis in the International Lung Cancer Consortium.

Anonymous said...

Intoxication is totally legal if you like alcohol. The same does not apply to marijuana, even though it has far fewer negative side effects than alcohol. Those who support keeping the government out of our personal lives, less government, and lower taxes would do well to follow the will of the people and other states that have successfully legalized smoking a natural plant.

Anonymous said...

I hope that Texas will take baby steps in the right direction, but based on the experience so far in Colorado and Washington, Legal-Taxed-Regulated seems to be superior to decrim. Could Texas be addicted to fines?

Every argument I've seen in favor of perpetuating plant prohibition has the same flaw. They are based on the false premise that after 43 years of steady failure, the silly war on a stupid plant will magically start working.