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Texas DA assistant’s opposition to marijuana provides rare opportunity

An Open Letter to Terry Breen (Assistant DA, Goliad, TX)

A south Texas assistant District Attorney provided a rare opportunity for a response to marijuana anti-legalization efforts.
A south Texas assistant District Attorney provided a rare opportunity for a response to marijuana anti-legalization efforts.

Dear Mr. Breen,

I’m writing in response to you going full prohibitionist in a recent letter to the Victoria Advocate.

You may not know this, sir, but you’ve done those of us in the pro-cannabis camp a favor. It’s tough to find an opposing voice in this debate.

It’s not so much that some Texans aren’t against legalization – they are – it’s just that they can’t form a logical argument against it, so they tend to not speak up.

By voicing your opinions, you’ve given me the opportunity to counter them.

Here are some of the more egregious errors in your letter:

“There is not a single bed in TDC being occupied by someone who is merely a “recreational user” of marijuana.”

You’re wrong.

Plenty of Texans have faced (and continue to face) prison time because of recreational cannabis use.

I’ll point you to just one story – the recent arrest and ongoing prosecution of Eli Manna and Andrew George, pulled over and found to be in possession of seven cannabis-infused brownies. They’re now facing ten years to life in prison because under Texas’ ultra-prohibitionist laws investigators weigh the entire edible product, not just the THC content of the product. The total weight of the brownies was 650 grams, which to the cops means they may as well have been carrying a kilo of weed.

This is not the only such story, it’s just a high-profile one that happens to include some really ridiculous circumstances. It’s an example of two Texans who are now facing serious prison time in TDC for possession of a personal amount of cannabis-infused brownies.

You’re right Mr. Breen, recreational users aren’t in any danger at all.

“Recreational users of marijuana never have more than at most half an ounce of marijuana. Anyone with four or more ounces of marijuana is a dealer.”

Now I know it’s not very respectful, but I laughed out loud at this.

Do you have anything you can use to back this up?

I know plenty of recreational cannabis users and not one of them regularly possesses a standard amount. Some people keep a gram or two around for special occasions; others have an ounce or more ready at all times. To say that they “never have more than at most half an ounce” is ludicrous.

As far as four or more ounces making you a dealer –why shouldn’t someone stockpile a product they use regularly? If a patient were to find a good deal on a strain of cannabis or an extract that they know works for their symptoms, why shouldn’t they lay in a supply?

My fiancée buys toilet paper by the truckload at a big box store, but that doesn’t mean we’re using ten rolls a day. It means she’s a smart shopper. Why can’t the same principle be applied to cannabis?

Don’t ignore the impact this lie you’re spreading will have on Texans who use cannabis to combat illness. Some patients require heavier doses of medication than others, and may need to possess more than a half-ounce. It stands to reason that a patient using cannabis for chemotherapy symptoms doesn’t fit the “dealer” profile.

“A half ounce makes 40 joints, and a single joint can get several people high.”

Let’s do some math, shall we?

If a half ounce (14.195 grams by my scale) makes 40 joints, then each joint contains something like 0.3 grams of cannabis. If you, Mr. Breen, or anyone you know can roll a joint containing 0.3 grams and use it to “get several people high,” then you need to hook a brother up with your connect.

For real, though – “joints” come in all shapes and sizes, and I doubt I’ve ever smoked one as small as 0.3 grams. It’s not unheard-of for a joint or other smoking device to contain a quarter-ounce or more of high-THC cannabis, so there goes your whole “40 joints” theory. The sky is the limit as far as how much a person consumes medically or recreationally.

I think the worst part about this lie is that it shows you clearly have no idea what you’re talking about when it comes to how cannabis is actually used. You’ve spent your professional career investigating and prosecuting people for consuming an herb you don’t know a thing about.

Where did you get this “40 joints” number from, anyway? I couldn’t find a single reference that cites that number, so I’m starting to think you just made it up.

“Texas spends millions of dollars every year on drug rehabilitation.”

Okay, that number may be accurate, but don’t make it sound like you guys do this out of the goodness of your collective heart. Texas’ switch to providing alternatives to jail was made out of necessity. Because of the massive increase in the prison population created by the War on Drugs, certain criminals were given the option of avoiding jail time through rehab or other programs. Does this indicate that Texas is interested in their rehabilitation or their relocation?

Since 1975, when the worst of our anti-drug policies were implemented, the national prison population has increased five-fold; a similar increase was seen state-wide. Between 1980 and 2010, the number of people imprisoned on drug charges in America increased from 41,000 to more than half a million, a ten-fold increase mirrored almost exactly in the Texas prison population.

You guys aren’t “spending money on drug rehabilitation” because you care about the people caught in your system. You’re doing it because you’ve run out of places to put them.

“THC, the ingredient in marijuana that causes intoxication, is fat soluble, meaning it accumulates in your fat. [The amount of THC in your fat] will continue to increase as you continue smoking marijuana.”

Man am I glad Assistant DA’s aren’t teaching our science classes.

This is an old myth from the early days of cannabis prohibition. The reason this myth is still around? It’s partially true. Evidence of cannabis use remains in your body longer than other intoxicants (say, alcohol) because of the fat-solubility of cannabinoids. But the presence of cannabinoid metabolites in fat cells causes no harm to the body – cannabinoids are non-toxic, unlike ethanol and the derivatives and metabolites of alcohol, some of which have been shown to cause cancer.

Cannabis leaves no long-term or permanent trace of its use in fat cells or any other body part. This study published in the Journals of Analytic Toxicology found a single metabolite of one cannabinoid in a participant some four weeks after cessation of heavy cannabis smoking. Trust me – if we could get stoned on one metabolite of one cannabinoid, we would. It ain’t happening.

“Marijuana … lowers one’s IQ.”

This myth is based on the results of a single study at Duke University which was eventually proven to be inaccurate. That study used a sample of just thirty-eight cannabis consumers – hardly a large enough sample to draw a worthwhile conclusion. This follow-up study, published six months later, found that the original study’s “…methodology [was] flawed and the causal inference drawn from the results premature.”

This University College of London study followed a similar methodology, but used a sample size of 2,612 cannabis consumers, and found “… no relationship between cannabis use and lower IQ,” even at the tender age of 15. Cannabis use does not have an effect on IQ, on any human, at any age.

“The criminal laws on marijuana discourage its use and encourage rehabilitation.”

Show me evidence that being “tough on drugs” leads to a reduction in crime or an increase in addicts completing courses of rehabilitation, and I’ll happily agree with you. The problem is – no such scientific link exists.

A bipartisan coalition of the British government looked into drug laws in eleven different countries, ranging from the zero-tolerance policies of Japan to the near-full legalization of drugs in Uruguay. The study found no correlation between tough drug laws and lower instances of crime or addiction.

The laws don’t work to treat addiction, but cannabis does:

Mr. Breen, if you read this, I want you to respond.

I’d love to know that you clicked through the links and kept an open mind. I hope that it’s still possible to teach an old dog new tricks – sick Texans need cannabis, and Texas needs a change in its drug policy. Our current situation is untenable, and the state is missing out on millions in new tax revenue.

The solution can’t be to continue to fill prisons with people charged with the possession of a natural herb. It has to be that we reconsider our long-held positions and come to some kind of agreement – Texans are using cannabis for recreation, for medicine, and even in non-psychoactive forms such as CBD extracts and topical salves for pain and other symptoms.

Texans in favor of a sensible cannabis policy aren’t all users. Many of us are advocates that choose not to consume but still believe our policies are wrong. Yes, some are recreational users, but some are mothers with sick kids, others are fathers being treated for cancer, or recovering addicts using cannabis to stay clean. All of us: advocates, patients, and recreational users, believe that our standing together makes a powerful argument in favor of legalization.

Are you yet sure that you’re standing on the right side of history?

Sincerely,

William Roby

William blogs on this topic and others at Busy Monster.

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Will Roby

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5 Comments

  1. July 15, 2015 at 7:35 pm

    Assistant DA, Terry Breen is an idiot. I read his article and he clearly has no idea what he’s talking about. Thank you for responding to his heinous propaganda.

  2. Archie Green
    July 16, 2015 at 7:14 am

    Now I’m confused , I’m against PROHIBITION, are you saying I’m for it?
    Cannabis should be Legalized ,and we should,rethink this whole war on drugs!
    Think Portugal
    Have nice day!

  3. July 16, 2015 at 1:17 pm

    Great letter! Thank you for writing it. Hopefully, someone will be swayed by your well crafted response to Mr. Breen’s uninformed letter.

  4. no one important
    July 18, 2015 at 11:15 am

    With the new laws being passed, cannabis is legal in many states. Yet in others many good people, are sitting in prison.so i say welcome to the new “isa” the Independent States of America.

  5. rickyb
    July 18, 2015 at 10:59 pm

    It should be evident that cannabis is a cash cow for anyone in the justice system. They must be hurtin’ for money or else maybe they are just fascists.