Guest Column: Let’s legalize pot responsibly in Texas
As a former educational professional, I’ve witnessed the negative social impacts and negative opportunity costs of cannabis prohibition. I observed these negative impacts while working with inner city youth; I also took note that these effects existed in my own suburban neighborhood. The world is our backyard.
I began to observe how easy it was for teens to access cannabis on the illicit market and how many are left to endure life-altering criminal convictions. I examined the constant draining of tax dollars, all the while watching the expansion of violent criminal cartels. Whether one is or isn’t a cannabis consumer, the effects are the same. To summarize the problem, I, along with many other professionals, conclude that such prohibition is a dismal failure. It has become an albatross around the neck of the American people and is in need of removal.
Some Texans say, “We don’t need to become another California.” My response: Correct. Texas must create a more effective legislative approach than California. Many state-controlled medical and legal cannabis programs are doing well and are tightly organized, creating a controlled environment in which youth are exempt from access. What a novel idea — the same as what was accomplished with the 21st Amendment abolishing alcohol prohibition.
Granted, there’s not going to be the perfect law; our youth still gain access to alcohol and tobacco with strictly enforced laws in place. One thing an adolescent doesn’t have to worry about with a black-market dealer: drug dealers don’t check I.D.
Our laws need to be reformed, vanquishing those which result in the incarceration of individuals who choose cannabis as an alternative to alcohol and tobacco. We must ensure that resources are available to identify and prosecute those individuals who truly prey upon society, displaying no regard for the damage they inflict on those they victimize. Texas’ prohibition law was written arbitrarily and capriciously, with discriminatory overtones, and is in dire need of reform.
We need look no further than Colorado as an example of this long-overdue approach to individual freedom. The issue of cannabis for medical and recreational use has taken root and is growing across America. Despite a lot of hoopla from opponents of reform, crime is actually down since reform has been implemented, according to recent data from the Denver Police Department. Also, according to national data in states where cannabis laws control the cultivation, distribution and sales of cannabis, teen use has flattened. Either the education and open dialogue is working or teens are becoming better researchers than our legislative officials.
Although Texas is trending with the national average to end the “War on Drugs” — 58 percent, according to Gallup — prohibition continues to place an unnecessary burden on Texans and our respective communities. Our legislative representatives have been given many opportunities to correct the issue of prohibition, only to remain deaf to the will and needs of their constituency. This inaction on their part is an unacceptable betrayal of the trust of the people they have sworn to serve.
This is why it is so important that we continue to keep building on the momentum needed to make reform a reality. Become involved; make an attempt at a dialogue with your representatives, register and vote; and send the message that Texans are tired of prohibition and are ready for re-legalization.
By: Clif Deuvall
Executive Director and Founder of NORML of Waco Inc.
Candidate for the Texas House of Representatives, District 56, Clifford “Clif” Deuvall is a decorated disabled Vietnam War veteran, former educator and multi-generational Texan. (Andrew Devalt was at the Alamo.) He was Waco ISD Teacher of the Year, 2001-2002 while at A.J. Moore Academy; 2002 Waco Foundation “Outstanding Educator” award winner; and received an award as “Teacher of the Year, 2001-2002, A.J. Moore Academy” from the Texas Senate. He lives in Waco.
This guest column originally appeared in the Waco Tribune-Herald.
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