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East Texas only wants to talk about marijuana bill

Marijuana reform supporters held a rally in Nacogdoches earlier this year to raise awareness.
Marijuana reform supporters held a rally in Nacogdoches earlier this year to raise awareness.

An east Texas legislator has filed 18 bills this year, but people only want to talk about one of them.

Rep. David Simpson has been holding town halls to hear from his constituents, and the prevailing topic has been marijuana. Last month Simpson filed a bill which would remove all penalties for marijuana possession.

In all, the majority voiced support at each of these meetings for changing marijuana laws in Texas, largely involving medical marijuana.

“People who have open minds about this subject have long been persecuted,” Lee Cargill said during a meeting at the Judson Community Center in Longview according to the Longview News-Journal. “You cannot regulate morality. An object is not inherently good or inherently bad.”

Pastor Phil Hodson said he’s in favor of measures for medical marijuana, stating “I agree, the war on drugs has been a failure. I think this is an ethical issue. What is currently in place creates problems and harms people.”

“Who can deny someone who is suffering, from cancer or some other pain-inducing situation, any drug that would alleviate that situation?” Pct. 2 Commissioner Darryl Primo asked. “I think it’s time for our community to have open and honest debate about any drug that brings relief from this pain.”

Primo wants to bring a resolution to the Commissioner’s court to support passing a medical marijuana bill in Texas. “I’m not looking for a fight here,” he said. “But I think, for the people we serve, when it becomes time to change we shouldn’t refuse to change just because we’ve got no political courage.”

Simpson says Primo is not the only elected official in support of changing marijuana laws either. “I don’t think Commissioner Primo is the only official to support – maybe he’s the only one to publicly support it, but I have heard from numerous others,” Simpson said. “Not everybody agrees with me, but people respect me. And I think the majority definitely do support what I’m trying to do.”

While Simpson approaches the matter from the point of view that a “God-given plant” should not be prohibited, especially when its use offers medical benefits, there are a few people who disagree.

“Marijuana is a poison, and there is no medical science that shows there is any positive use of medicinal marijuana,” said Dr. Jim Farr, a Longview physician. “This is not what Texans need.”

He said studies show poor long-term memory is a side effect for cannabis users, and there’s no documentation of positive outcomes.

“Everything you hear supporting it is testimonials, not documentation,” Farr said.

Farr states this despite the 23 other states which have established medical marijuana programs, and the ever growing amount of research which demonstrates the medicinal benefits of cannabis.

Texas Marijuana Policy Advocacy Workshops — January 2018
Texas Marijuana Policy Advocacy Workshops — January 2018

Longview resident David Daniels also said he was against what Simpson is doing, saying “I think you’re giving an inaccurate use of Scripture and comparing apples to oranges. You can’t just open it to everybody. If there are medical benefits to it, which I believe there could be some, open it up to just that. This is like handing a loaded gun to people — yes, they can have it but it’s not necessarily a good idea.”

Members of the Tea Party and an East Texas Republican party chairman tell KLTV 7’s Julia Jenae that the potent piece of legislation shocked some, but not all, conservatives.

Chairman of the Smith County Republican Party, Tim McCormick, said the bill caught him and others off-guard.

“He is a strong Republican and he is very, very conservative on many issues.” said McCormick. “This one is one that he is in disagreement with many of the people locally.”

Cindy Schwartz of We the People Longview Tea Party, who has backed Simpson is the past, said in a press release that the executive board does not support HB 2165 and had no knowledge of the bill prior to its filing.

One founder of the Tyler Tea Party, Tammy Blair, said not all tea party members oppose the bill.

“Those who like big government for their own purposes would say keep [the law] the way it is.” said Blair. “And those who look for freedom and rule of constitutional law, say it’s time to consider lifting these prohibitions.”

“The basis of conservatism is limited government, so by criminalizing a plant, you’re using the force of government to impose your values on the rest of society.”

According to the Texas Department of Safety arrest data, there were 138,567 arrests for drug abuse violations in Texas in 2013. Over half of those arrests were for violations connected with marijuana manufacturing or possession, totaling 71,761.

“Is it worth throwing them in jail and ruining their life? It’s not,” Blair said.

The deadline for filing legislation was on Friday and now the legislature is set to consider nine cannabis bills in Texas including penalty reductions, decriminalization, medical marijuana, and hemp.

Recent polling by the University of Texas and Texas Tribune shows that Texans overwhelmingly agree on the topic of cannabis, with 76 percent supporting changing marijuana laws whether it be for less penalties, medical marijuana, or full legalization.

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Stephen Carter

Stephen Carter is a journalist and information technology specialist living in Waco, Texas. He has been working with the cannabis movement since 2009. He founded Texas Cannabis Report in 2013 to bring Texans accurate cannabis related news.

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