Marijuana inspires strange politics

Houston Chronicle
Posted on May 10, 2015 | By Chris Ladd

The campaign to legalize marijuana took a strange turn this week. weed-300x215A committee in the Texas House approved a bill that would remove the state’s prohibitions entirely. Procedural obstacles unique to the Texas Legislature mean that the bill will not likely make it to a vote in this session. Nonetheless their action is an unprecedented landmark, a sort of Reagan-in-Reykjavik moment for conservatives in the debate over the drug war. Here’s why.

Two Republicans joined three Democrats on the House’s Criminal Jurisprudence Committee to approve the sweeping proposal and send it to the House’s calendar committee. One of them is David Simpson, a Tea Party star who introduced the measure.

Having Simpson back an unusual piece of legislation is perhaps not all that interesting. He’s the guy who led the State House’s idiotic fight against the Homeland Security Department’s airport screening rules two sessions ago. To put it succinctly, he’s an odd duck.

There are two other factors that make this scenario worth watching. First is Simpson’s reasoning. He introduces a rare touch of ideological consistency to a so-called “libertarian” movement that seems mostly interested in imposing Christian fundamentalist sharia. In an argument laced with more scriptural references than the average Sunday sermon, Simpson makes this unusually insightful observation in a blog post at the Texas Tribune:

You would think that our country’s history with alcohol prohibition — an era marked by bootlegging, organized crime, government corruption and a rise in crime in general — would have prevented us from making the same mistake again.

But our current “war on drugs” policies, though well intended, have accomplished the exact opposite, spurring a proliferation of ever-changing exotic designer drugs and a disregard for constitutional protections in the name of eliminating drugs at any cost. Just think of no-knock warrants, stop-and-frisk, civil asset forfeiture and billionaire drug lords.

In other words, a far right Tea Party fundamentalist examined a complex issue of national importance and reached a nuanced, intelligent conclusion that could form the basis of bipartisan policy-making. This does not happen every day. It deserves appreciation.

But for a serious political watcher this is still not the most interesting thing about the committee’s vote this week. What’s truly groundbreaking is that Simpson was joined in his yes vote on HB 2165 by Republican Rep. Todd Hunter from Corpus Christi.

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