By Steve Elliott
The four Republican candidates for lieutenant governor of Texas took the stage Monday night for a live debate hosted by public television station KERA in Dallas. Asked for their positions on marijuana laws, three of the four voiced opposition to any change in the state's current laws concerning both recreational and medical marijuana.
Incumbent Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples and state Sen. Dan Patrick all said they didn't want to change the marijuana laws, reports Mark Wiggins at KVUE.
"I would not legalize it," said Dewhurst. "I would not decriminalize it. I think marijuana can be an addictive drug and cause problems for people who are suffering from that addiction."
"We do not need to lower our standards," Staples said. "I think that those that are receiving government assistance should not be eligible if they're illegally using narcotic substances in our state, and our laws need to reflect that fully."
"We know the medical research proves, without question, that marijuana does impact young people more than older people," claimed Patrick. "So it's a nonstarter with me."
Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson staked out his own position, however. While opposed to recreational marijuana legalization, Patterson explained his support for medicinal cannabis by comparing its active ingredient, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) to other pharmaceutical agents.
By Steve Elliott
Two lawmakers in Texas have vowed to reintroduce marijuana legislation "as many times as it takes," but drug policy experts say it will be from five to 10 years before the Legislature might change the Lone Star State's cannabis laws.
"I would say within the next decade," said Nathan Jones, Ph.D., with Rice University's Baker Institute, reports Kevin Reece at KHOU 11 News. "If you're looking at the polling data it looks pretty electable. Or it looks almost inevitable."
Recent polls show about 58 percent of Texans supporting the legalization, regulation and taxation of marijuana. An even larger majority -- 61 percent -- supports reducing penalties for possession of small amounts of pot.
State Rep. Harold Dutton Jr. said he's going to try for a fourth time to get a vote on his bill that would lessen penalties for possession of an ounce or less of marijuana. Under current Texas law, possession of two ounces or less is a Class B misdemeanor and get can you up to six months in jail. "I think that's a little overkill for somebody who has an ounce or less of marijuana," Dutton said.
Is it a dangerous thing to be using (marijuana) in your house, for example?" Dutton asked. "Probably not any more so than having a drink in your house."
More than 60 percent support removing criminal penalties for marijuana possession and replacing them with a civil citation similar to a traffic ticket
A strong majority of Texas voters (58 percent) support making marijuana legal for adults and regulating it like alcohol, according to a Public Policy Polling survey released on Tuesday by the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP). Only 38 percent said they were opposed.
"Marijuana prohibition has been just as big a failure as alcohol prohibition," said MPP executive director Rob Kampia, a part-time Austin resident. "Most Texans agree that marijuana sales should be conducted by legitimate businesses instead of drug cartels in the underground market."
The poll also found that 61 percent of state voters support removing criminal penalties for possession of up to one ounce of marijuana and replacing them with a civil offense punishable by a fine of up to $100 with no possibility of jail time. Only 30 percent said they were opposed.
Under current Texas law, it is a criminal offense for a person to possess a small amount of marijuana, and he or she can be sentenced to up to one year in jail and fined up to $2,000.
"Law enforcement officials' time would be better spent addressing violent crimes instead of adults simply possessing marijuana," Kampia said. "No adult should face potentially life-altering criminal penalties for using a product that is significantly less harmful than alcohol."
By Steve Elliott
An Austin, Minnesota marijuana advocate is ramping up her push for cannabis and hemp legalization. Deanna Jean and other area organizers plan to hold the inaugural Austin Hemp Fest, a festival promoting legalization, in mid-September.
The Austin Hemp Fest is billed as a drug-free, family-friendly event, and will feature at least local and regional musical artists, Deanna Jean said, reports Trey Mewes at the Austin Daily Herald.
"Prohibition is ending, and it's time we embrace this change instead of fight it," Deanna Jean said.
Organizers will rent the bandshell at Bandshell Community Park for the event, planned for noon to 9 p.m. on Sunday, September 15.
In addition to musical entertainment, Austin Hemp Fest will include arts and crafts, as well as speakers who will share information about the potential benefits of restarting the American hemp industry.
The event is raising eyebrows in the city. While the issue isn't up to the Austin City Council, city officials are closely watching the event.
"It would be a major surprise if either the council or myself came out in favor of it," Mayor Tom Stiehm said.
Deanna Jean recently gathered more than 1,000 signatures to persuade Mayor Stiehm to publicly support cannabis decriminalization. He declined to give his position on the issue.