The vast majority of Texans want existing marijuana policy reformed—or, preferably, done away with entirely. Results from a poll in February revealed less than 20 percent support for keeping cannabis outright illegal. More Texans want outright marijuana legalization than support the current status quo.
The change in attitude is coming thanks to other states legalizing, but also to widespread awareness that, hey, this stuff is really medicine. Earlier this year, a Texas family whose daughter suffers from severe autism recorded a video demonstrating this notion for anyone with eyes.
But you can’t go from red-state prohibition straight to marijuana legalization. (Or at least no one does.)
A reasonable compromise, then, would have been allowing extremely sick people to more easily use medical marijuana. This is the concept supported by more than 80 percent of voters—and, for once, a bevy of lawmakers, like the 77 Democrats and Republicans who supported such an expansion of the state’s extremely limited medical marijuana program.
Not that it mattered.
Marijuana reform is dead in Texas this year, despite “unprecedented” support, as the San Antonio Express-News reported.
The way representative government is supposed to work in a democratic republic such as ours, elected officials do the bidding of their constituents. Sounds simple, but as the current ongoing debacle with healthcare in Congress is demonstrating, that’s not quite how it works.
And with marijuana policy, this easy formula breaks down with even more predictability.
Across the country, lawmakers have proved remarkably unwilling to touch marijuana reform. Marijuana legalization has come only via ballot initiatives, and even medical marijuana needs the cover of a public vote. The few medical marijuana programs to come via state legislatures are, by no coincidence, the country’s strictest.
So. The medical marijuana bill supported by those 77 state lawmakers was never called to the floor of the Texas State House for a vote. A companion bill in the State Senate never even received a hearing, the Express-News reported.
Another bill that would have followed the lead of Houston, which earlier this year downgraded marijuana possession to an infraction punishable by a fine, also didn’t make it to the floor for a vote before the legislative deadline last week.
State Rep. Jason Isaac, a Republican and the bill’s sponsor, chalks up the medical cannabis failure to education.
The bill would have expanded the state’s medical marijuana program to allow sick people who aren’t epileptic kids to use the drug. It would also have allowed strains of cannabis with slight levels of THC, a necessary component for many patients who need pain relief, appetite stimulation and, possibly, tumors shrunk.
But since THC is also in recreational marijuana, that harbinger of all that is bad, Isaac’s colleagues collapsed, he told the paper.
Isaac is being political, which behooves his position, considering he’ll need help in the future from the craven crew who screwed him: the shot-callers in the State House, the ones who decide which bills deserve to be debated in a public forum, who decided this just wasn’t going to be the year for marijuana reform.
As a result, Isaac told the newspaper, he has constituents who are either buying weed on the black market to give to an autistic child like Kara Zartler, seen in the video, or a parent with cancer—or they’re leaving Texas entirely.
Other cannabis advocates took the long view.
In prior years, decriminalization efforts didn’t even get calendared. Think of that!
It’s progress for lawmakers to blow a deadline to discuss a popular issue, and not to merely ignore it entirely. This shows you both how far we’ve come and how much further there is to go.
In the meantime, Texas voters should remember two things: the nonviolent drug offenders and the sick people who will suffer, and the recalcitrant lawmakers whose inaction ensured it.