The Dallas Morning News 

Pot changes could do some bipartisan good


July 4, 2018

The recently released list of Texas Republicans’ biggest legislative priorities was largely expected — except for that surprising bit about weed.

Decriminalizing small amounts of marijuana and improving medical marijuana guidelines finally made it to the state GOP’s platform, and we hope legislators jump to action in January.

Marijuana-related legislation is more popular among Texans than you might expect. A 2017 poll found that only 17 percent of Texans were still against legalization in any form, with medical use still considered the most acceptable.

But Texas is playing catch-up. So far, cities have driven decriminalization measures, individually deciding whether they wanted to allow written citations for misdemeanor marijuana possession instead of harsher fines or jail time.

Dallas County put a cite-and-release policy into place last December; however, it has had limited impact because many cities in the county are not participating. Houston’s policy, which went into place last year, goes even beyond simple cite-and-release. Instead, officers simply confiscate the drugs if the suspect agrees to take a four-hour drug education class.

Now, within its long list of policy stances representing the GOP’s official views for the next two years, the state’s Republican Party is talking constructively about marijuana.

The GOP planks ask the Legislature to drop jail time for carrying an ounce or less of marijuana and call on Congress to remove cannabis from the list of Schedule 1 drugs.

“We support a change in the law to make it a civil, and not a criminal, offense for legal adults only to possess one ounce or less of marijuana for personal use, punishable by a fine of up to $100, but without jail time,” one plank reads.

These proposed changes, along with one related to medical cannabis access, would almost certainly bring Texas pot policies more in alignment with constituent desires.

Legalization has increasingly become a ballot box issue. Texas Sen. Ted Cruz’s blasting of opponent Beto O’Rourke for his discussion of drug policies is just the latest example of weed popping up in campaign conversation.

Opioid addiction adds even more urgency to the debate. States such as West Virginia are increasingly turning to medical marijuana as a less-addictive alternative to opioids, a strategy that Texas shouldn’t overlook — the number of Texans dying from overdose has grown every year from 2014 to 2016.

But marijuana has to be accessible for this to be an option, and Texas got an F on its latest report card for medical marijuana access.

This newspaper has pushed for evidence-based marijuana policies, and with this constructive prod from the state GOP platform, the Legislature may be able to do some bipartisan good for its constituents.

Let’s not let this opportunity go up in smoke.

— The Dallas Morning News


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