Texas isn’t ready for the dangers of drug tourism and legal marijuana.
The past decade of drug liberalization has brought a mixed bag of examples for Texas legislators to examine. Stopping the incarceration of large numbers of people, especially young people and minorities, is an admirable goal. So is curtailing the black market demand, which has enriched organized crime in our cities and across our southern border.
However, House Bill 2165, introduced by state Rep. David Simpson, R-Longview, goes much farther than other marijuana bills currently in the Texas legislature. The bill would legalize both possession and distribution of marijuana. The audacious bill is based on the premise that legalizing marijuana will reduce minor consumption and allow state resources to be better allocated.
Unfortunately, in the many examples of drug liberalization to be found across the nation, these two goals have seen varied success.
As a business venture, Colorado’s experiment in outright legalization has been wildly successful. The state has raked in an estimated $76 million in total taxes and fees off approximately $700 million in total sales. However, along with tax revenues, the law had promised to end the black market and curb teen consumption. On that front, Colorado has had some major setbacks.
The 2014 National Survey on Drug Use and Health has noted a rise in drug use in Colorado to the point where the state is now ranked second highest in the nation. Out of an estimated 130 metric tons a year of marijuana sold in Colorado, less than 60 percent was legal and regulated, according to the state. Most worrying is that rather than decrease, marijuana use in the past months among 12- to 17-year-olds increased by 4 percent between 2011 to 2012 and 2012 to 2013. The increased trend among youth is a great source of concern, and runs counter to the claim that legalization protects minors.
Marijuana, despite being touted as “less dangerous than alcohol,” still causes a host of social and medical problems including addiction, cognitive development and auto accidents. Legalization in Colorado has led to the increasing cultivation of extremely strong and often contaminated forms of marijuana with no medicinal value. The risks of marijuana are particularly acute for teens and young adults. The availability of marijuana to minors is a primary concern for all sides when setting marijuana policy. Yet, the increased use of marijuana among Colorado teens suggests that legalization has not diminished the black market supply of marijuana available to minors.
Colorado isn’t the only state with marijuana-related issues. Colorado’s neighbors have also had a negative experience with the effects of drug tourism. Nebraska and Oklahoma both sued Colorado in the U.S. Supreme Court last year for causing a torrent of marijuana to flow over their borders. Drug tourists from across the world have flocked to Colorado to buy and use marijuana and to bring it home with them. The end result has been an increased strain on surrounding states’ resources.
Texas could face these same challenges if we choose to become the next state to experiment with legalization. As a border state, Texas marijuana legalization could bring an influx of marijuana smuggling from the Mexican cartels as well as interference from local DEA assets. Like California, Texas is home to three DEA Divisional headquarters. In California, the DEA has aggressively gone after local marijuana growers in the years since decriminalization.
Ultimately, gray market/black market duality and drug tourism bring too much instability and uncertainty to Texas. In the long term, the United States cannot survive with a patchwork drug policy. Texas should not act independently on marijuana until a plan to combat the dangerous aspects of drug liberalization has been articulated and a unified national policy ends the conflict of federal law against that of the states.
Marijuana is a word that often comes with a negative connotation. However, it seems to be a current hot topic. The recent legalization of marijuana in Colorado and Washington has caused quite a stir. Many people are wondering if their state will be next to legalize the drug. Texas has strongly been against the legalization of marijuana for years.
There are a lot of people who would agree with Texas’ stance. I personally do not partake in the use of marijuana, but I don’t see the problem.
Texas is one of the most conservative states out there. But this is 2014, times are changing and we need to change with the times. Texas should legalize marijuana and here’s why.
First, it’s medically beneficial. Cannabis, also known as marijuana, has been known to help those suffering from seizures as well as treat glaucoma patients.
According to Discovery Health, it can also be used to treat muscle pain, spasms and nausea.
The National Cancer Institute performed a clinical trial, which concluded that HIV and AIDS patients who took dronabinol, a drug formed from marijuana, had increased their appetite and stopped losing weight.
You see, it’s helpful. Why would we ban something that could be a good thing for us?
Not only is it medically beneficial, but it would be a great move for us as a state financially.
The lantern.com reports that the first day of the year, pot sales in Colorado were more than 1 million dollars and the tax rate was about 29 percent.
According to The Huffington Post, a state like Texas could double that amount.
A study from Cato Institute also revealed that legalizing marijuana would generate at least 8.7 million dollars in federal and state tax revenue annually. Texas is a great state, but let’s face it, that money could be used elsewhere.
There’s also this so-called ‘war on drugs’ that’s going on. We’re spending countless amounts of money on arrests, processing and prosecutions of drug-related arrests.
Also, many government agencies are putting millions of dollars into the war on drugs when food stamps and other government aid programs are constantly being cut. Prohibition is only stifling our financial growth.
In 2012, more than 1.5 million drug-related arrests were made and 70 percent of those were marijuana-related. I might not be an expert on this, but clearly we’re not winning this war. How about putting our efforts into something more useful, like education reform?
To sum everything up, lawmakers need to open their eyes and look at the bigger picture. Legalize marijuana, make the state some money and quit complaining. It’s getting us nowhere.
See why staff columnist Sara Rose Funderburg thinks the legalization of marijuana in Texas isn't worth it.
Staff columnist Caroline Cook shares some insight about the consequences of legalizing marijuana in Texas.