Q&A on the GOP and pot reform

Dallas Morning News, Sunday Points:

John Baucum, Republicans Against Marijuana Prohibition
John Baucum, Republicans Against Marijuana Prohibition

A bipartisan coalition has formed to lobby the Legislature to revise marijuana laws and join the 28 states that have decriminalized or legalized use of small amounts. Republicans Against Marijuana Prohibition is one of the groups. We posed questions about the initiative to RAMP’s political director, John Baucum, 31, who’s also president of the Houston Young Republicans and an account manager for a software company:

I’d guess some people are surprised to hear the name of your group — Republicans Against Marijuana Prohibition — since the GOP typically represents the status quo on social issues. True?

Traditionally, Republicans have championed the principles of individual liberty, limited government and fiscal responsibility. From a policy perspective, marijuana prohibition flies in the face of each of these values. However, there are certainly some people surprised to see Republicans helping to lead the fight for marijuana reform. Prohibition is a big-government idea, so those supporting a limited government should outwardly reject that notion.

What do polls say in general about attitudes held by Republicans, vs. Democrats, on marijuana-related issues?

Just about every poll shows overwhelming public support for reforming marijuana laws. These numbers differ somewhat based on decriminalization or medical marijuana, but overall support remains very high. Republicans, in Texas, seem to be evenly split on medical marijuana, and a slight majority tends to support lowering the criminal penalty for possession of small amounts.

But is there a gap overall between Republicans and Democrats? And is it as strong among younger people?

There is a gap between Republicans and Democrats, but neither party is really choosing to lead on this. In Congress, some of the most outspoken on marijuana reform are Republicans, such as congressmen Dana Rohrabacher of California, Justin Amash of Michigan and Thomas Massie of Kentucky, plus Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky.

I don’t believe the gap is as wide among younger voters in the two parties. In our experience, young Republicans agree with RAMP, but they don’t list marijuana policy as their top priority. Most reasonable people understand that prohibition is an abject failure and marijuana is not as dangerous as they’ve been led to believe from years of “reefer madness” propaganda.

Tell me more about the “fiscal responsibility” issue you mentioned for Republicans.

Every two years, the Texas Legislature must pass a balanced budget. When bills are considered in committee, their budgetary impact is a prime indicator of whether the bill will pass through committee or not. In 2012, there were over 70,000 arrests or citations for marijuana-related offenses in Texas, and over 95 percent were for possession only. This creates a huge and expensive burden for law enforcement and our criminal justice system.

What was your reaction when Gov. Rick Perry called drug-enforcement policies “flawed” last week?

Governor Perry has been in the lead on this issue for some time. From his states-rights comments in his book Fed Up! to telling Jimmy Kimmel, “You don’t want to ruin a kid’s life for having a joint,” Perry and Texas Republicans have come together in a bipartisan way to push for smart criminal-justice reforms. We believe marijuana reform is an obvious step toward a more effective policing and public safety strategy.

How far do you think the Legislature will go this year in changing marijuana laws?

There is a great chance that the Texas Legislature will pass some type of legislation reforming our draconian marijuana policy. Never before has there been such a large coalition working together on this issue to make reform a reality. Many diverse groups have come together to create a coalition called Texans for Responsible Marijuana Policy. We’ve spent the past several months visiting with lawmakers and educating them on the facts about marijuana.

On the criminal justice side, we are supporting HB 507, which would lower the penalty for possession of 1 ounce or less from its current status of a Class B misdemeanor ($2,000 fine and up to six months in jail) to a civil penalty not to exceed $100.

Later this session, a comprehensive medical marijuana bill will be introduced. It will allow patients with specific qualifying conditions to access medical marijuana upon the recommendation of their physician.

As a state that prides itself on limited bureaucracy, the government of Texas should not put itself between the doctor-patient relationships and deny lifesaving medicine to suffering individuals.

You mentioned HB 507, the bill to make possession a civil penalty. The author, Rep. Joe Moody, is an ex-prosecutor, but law-enforcement people traditionally are hostile to pot reform. How do you size up the opposition?

Three of the largest cities in Texas — Houston, Dallas and Austin — are now veering from the Class B misdemeanor in some type of program. These efforts were led by prosecutors and law enforcement. When you have large cities looking at their crowded jail systems and asking the question, “Who is the easiest offender to de-prioritize?” it’s pretty obvious to pinpoint the low-risk pot offender.

Police we’ve talked to said they often, “make it a Class C in the field.” In other words, they write a ticket for marijuana paraphernalia, a Class C, and let the encounter serve as a lesson. This shows you law enforcement is already thinking about different ways to handle the marijuana offender.

This Q&A was conducted by editorial writer Rodger Jones. Reach him at rmjones@dallasnews.com. Reach Baucum at johnb@rampgop.org.

SOUTHEAST TEXAS REP. JAMES WHITE SEEKS TO PRIORITIZE RESOURCES ON MARIJUANA

Rep. James White (R) Photo taken Thursday, July 17, 2014 Guiseppe Barranco/@spotnewsshooter Photo: Guiseppe Barranco, Photo Editor
Rep. James White (R)
Photo taken Thursday, July 17, 2014 Guiseppe Barranco/@spotnewsshooter Photo: Guiseppe Barranco, Photo Editor

Rep. James White, an ardent Tea Party supporter, has come out in support of changing marijuana laws in Texas.

The 50-year-old Woodville Republican, whose District 19 encompasses Hardin, Polk, Tyler, Jasper and Newton counties, won a third two-year term in 2014 with no opposition at the polls.

He spoke with the Beaumont Enterprise, who asked him 8 questions about the 25 bills he has filed so far for the upcoming legislative session in Austin.

Read more here: http://txcann.com/2015/01/09/southeast-texas-rep-james-white-seeks-to-prioritize-resources-on-marijuana/

Marijuana Policy in 2015: Eight Big Things to Watch

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1. Oregon, Alaska Plan & Prepare for Legal Marijuana

In November 2014, Oregon and Alaska followed Washington and Colorado in legalizing recreational marijuana. While the right of Oregonians and Alaskans to grow marijuana at home begins early on, the commercial market and regulatory system will not begin for one to two years, due to the language in Ballot Measure 91 (OR) & Ballot Measure 2 (AK).

Each ballot measure requires the state to design and construct a commercial market within the bounds laid out in the voter-approved language. Each measure also charges the respective state legislatures and alcohol regulatory bodies to work together to design regulations governing legal marijuana. The latter is where the action will be in 2015. It will be important to watch what Oregon and Alaska decide in setting up rules to govern this new area of policy. These rules may well determine the success or failure of marijuana policy in each state, and the path taken will also offer insight into how states are learning from each other as this policy area expands.

Finally, and of particular note, Oregon will become the first state to legalize marijuana that shares a border with a state (WA) that has already approved legalization. Watching Oregon’s commercial and regulatory choices will be crucial in understanding whether and to what extent states may strive for marijuana market advantages vis-à-vis bordering states. Decisions over taxation in Oregon suggest this may be part of the political, policy, and economic calculus.

Read more here: http://www.brookings.edu/blogs/fixgov/posts/2015/01/08-marijuana-policy-2015-things-to-watch-hudak

Meet the Family Behind the Legal Weed Industry’s First Credit Union

With the help of his father, mother and little sister, Alex Mason is leading the charge to get cannabis businesses and charities much-needed access to banking

The Mason Family Photo by Jacqueline Collins
The Mason Family
Photo by Jacqueline Collins

When Alex Mason, a gregarious 25-year-old South Carolina native, moved to Colorado in 2012 to pursue advanced wilderness EMT certification and a passion for mountain climbing, he never imagined that he would end up founding the world’s first financial institution dedicated to the legal cannabis industry. That institution, the Fourth Corner Credit Union, received a green light from state banking regulators in November, and is set to open in downtown Denver by mid-January.

“I always saw myself as an outdoorsman who would one day climb the highest mountain,” Mason says. “Maybe that mountain was trying to figure out how to help the legal cannabis industry get banking services.”

But Mason couldn’t scale that peak alone. So he recruited his family – father Mark, mother Rhoda and sister Delaney – to assist with his budding idea.

Read more: http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/news/meet-the-family-behind-the-legal-weed-industrys-first-credit-union-20150108#ixzz3OP87Fjig

WOMAN SUING TEXAS DPS OVER ROADSIDE CAVITY SEARCH DUE TO MARIJUANA SMELL

The Texas Department of Public Safety is being sued in federal court by a woman who had a full body cavity search on the side of a busy public road after troopers claimed to smell marijuana. [No marijuana found.]

Jennifer Stelly and her boyfriend Channing Castex were driving to Surfside Beach when they said they were pulled over for speeding in Brazoria County in March 2013 according to Houston 2.

Read more here: http://txcann.com/2015/01/08/woman-suing-texas-dps-over-roadside-cavity-search-due-to-marijuana-smell/

High on Life? Medical Marijuana Laws and Suicide

By D. Mark Anderson, Daniel I. Rees, and Joseph J. Sabia
cato-logo

Under the Controlled Substances Act of 1970, marijuana was classified as a Schedule I drug because it was considered to have no “accepted medical use in treatment in the United States” (Eddy, 2010). Since then, 23 states and the District of Columbia have legalized the use of medical marijuana; over a dozen more state legislatures have recently considered medical marijuana bills.

The relationship between marijuana and mental health has received a great deal of attention from both proponents and opponents of medical marijuana legalization. Proponents argue that marijuana can be an effective treatment for bipolarism, depression, and other mood disorders (Rosenthal et al., 1996; Grinspoon and Bakalar, 1997; Zimmerman, 1999). They also argue that medical marijuana patients are able to reduce their use of painkillers, tranquilizers, and psychiatric medicines because of their use of marijuana (Lucido, 2004). Opponents, on the other hand, argue that marijuana use increases the likelihood of depression, anxiety, psychosis, and schizophrenia (Zammit et al., 2002; Henquet et al., 2004; Goldberg, 2006; Shulman, 2008). They also argue that the negative effects of marijuana are long-lasting and that users are at risk of suffering from decreased psychological well-being later in life (Green and Ritter, 2000; McGee et al., 2000).

Read more here: http://www.cato.org/publications/research-briefs-economic-policy/high-life-medical-marijuana-laws-suicide

Simpson talks medical marijuana to Longview tea party group

Rep-David-Simpson-via-campaign-website-615x345
Representative David Simpson (R-Longview)

Gregg and Upshur County’s state representative hinted Monday at the possibility of working for the legalization of medical marijuana while speaking to a Longview tea party group, some of his most ardent backers.

David Simpson, R-Longview, breached the topic in front of about 150 people as he laid out his plan for the next legislative session, which is set to begin next week.

“I am going to be pretty bold. I have heard some people in this community come to me again and again and again, in respect to a natural plant that God made, marijuana,” Simpson said. “There are people right in here in the district who are suffering from seizures. … They have tried all the pharmaceuticals and their daughter … has 15 to 20 seizures a day. They went to Colorado, and they went through all the hoops and tested some of the cannabis oil and she went 15 to 20 days without having a seizure.”

Read more here: http://www.news-journal.com/news/local/simpson-talks-medical-marijuana-to-longview-tea-party-group/article_044b42a3-8816-568b-aa9e-13ead771585f.html

Legislators To Consider Marijuana Bills

BEAUMONT- by Haley Bull

Many advocates are pushing for the reform of marijuana in Texas this upcoming legislative session, including a group in Southeast Texas, NORML. Two bills, one to decriminalize marijuana and another to legalize medical marijuana are in the works, though each faces opposition from groups like the Texas Sheriff’s Association.

One Southeast Texan said the bills are potentially life-saving for him.

“It really works for some people, I’m not doing this for fun,” Jeremy Borque said.

The 38-year old said he’s used and relied on medical marijuana for more than 20 years to treat epileptic seizures.

“I’ve had to get my tongue put back together so many times it’s like hamburger meat. I’m glad I can talk to you all still. I bite through it everytime.,” Borque said. “But just a little bit of cannabis keeps me from doing that.”

Read more here: http://kfdm.com/shared/news/top-stories/stories/kfdm_vid_13500.shtml

Epileptic Girl Fights For Right To use Medical Cannabis

Alexis Bortell
Alexis Bortell

 

(KCEN) — Texas is home to some of the most notorious marijuana laws in the country. This year, advocates hope to change those.

A bill recently drafted by the Marijuana Policy Project aims to make medical marijuana accessible in Texas to people with PTSD, cancer, and a variety of other ailments.

If a bill is not passed by state legislators during the upcoming legislative session, many people say they will be forced to move out of state, including the family of 9-year-old Alexis Bortell.

Two years ago, Alexis was diagnosed with rolandic epilepsy.

“We started medicating her at that time, going through standard western pharmaceuticals, and of course, they all failed her,” said Alexis’s father, Dean Bortell.

Read more here: http://www.kcentv.com/story/27766516/epileptic-girl-fights-for-right-to-use-medical-cannabis

Details of Proposed Medical Marijuana Bill Revealed

A proposed medical marijuana bill is similar to working legislation in 23 other states and Washington D.C., according to Heather Fazio, Texas political director for the Marijuana Policy Project.

“It’s not a new idea, and it’s not some kind of new experiment. We are talking about natural, effective medicine,” she said.

Texas’ proposed bill would include cancer, glaucoma, HIV/AIDS, Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, Alzheimer’s, PTSD, and conditions causing wasting, severe pain, severe nausea, seizures, or severe muscle spasms as qualifying conditions and provide the state the option to approve additional medical conditions.

Read more here: http://www.sacurrent.com/Blogs/archives/2015/01/02/details-of-proposed-medical-marijuana-bill-revealed

Grassroots Action for Legislative Reform