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The Eyes of Texas Are Upon Legalization

By: Russ Belville

While I’m out here on the West Coast reporting on the fight to legalize marijuana, I often wonder how my friends in Texas would respond to some of the complaints I hear from marijuana activists here.

For instance, in my home state of Oregon, there is an enormous wailing from people in the medical marijuana movement about new medical garden regulations. It used to be the case that a grower could cultivate medical marijuana for four patients. But the trick was that multiple growers, without limits, could operate on the same premises.

This loophole got stretched so out of shape that at one time, our local newspaper The Oregonian reported that the largest medical marijuana garden in the state was supplying 104 patients – at least 26 growers at one property – and with six mature and eighteen immature plants per patient, there could be 624 mature and 1,872 immature plants in this space.

Worse, since Oregon had no residency requirement at the time, it turned out that all 104 patients were from Southern California. So we had a 2,400+ plant grow not serving a single Oregonian in the Oregon Medical Marijuana Program whose laws presumed growers cultivating at most 24 mature and 72 immature plants in a location.

So the legislature is taking up this issue and setting a new standard – an absolute cap on plant numbers in different settings. If you’re currently growing a huge amount of plants in a residential zone, you’re limited to a max of 24 cannabis plants per property. If you’re growing in a non-residential zone, your limit is 96 plants. If you’re starting new grows, the limits are 12 plants and 48 plants, respectively.

Take a breath, Texans, you read that correctly. Oregon medical advocates are wailing about “only” being able to grow a dozen or more plants.

In California, the complaints are with the proposed Adult Use of Marijuana Act for 2016, the legalization initiative that Sean Parker has dropped $1 million on, matched by Drug Policy Alliance and Marijuana Policy Project.

In addition to some California advocates complaining that AUMA’s legalization of one ounce of weed, eight grams of concentrate, six plants at home, and all the weed you can harvest from those plants at home just isn’t enough, they’re also complaining that it makes having an open bag of weed in the front seat of a car will be illegal, as will smoking marijuana in that moving car and passing a joint to a minor.

Yes, Texans, some Californians actually want to argue that punishing people for toking while driving and sharing with kids is wrong.

If I have a word of advice for Texans looking to legalize marijuana, it would be to hope that California legalizes in 2016 and the momentum for legalization becomes so great that the Lone Star State can move straight from prohibition to legalization without the interim step of medical marijuana.

It’s not that medical marijuana per se is a bad thing; of course it isn’t. Nobody wants the sick and dying to suffer and politically it is sometimes all the momentum we can accomplish.

But it’s that medical marijuana, as I’ve seen it evolve in every state so far, becomes its own issue and industry, and its advocates become as resistant to legalization as any business would that benefits from the status quo. Medical marijuana makes marijuana legal enough that you can buy and sell it, but keeps it illegal enough that you can charge prohibition prices for it.

In fact, in California 2010 and Washington 2012, medical marijuana dispensaries took some of their weed-selling profits (which, let’s be frank, came from a lot of recreational consumers) and used them to fund campaigns against legalization. Their campaigns to defeat legalization were often more vocal and visible than the ones from the natural foes of legalization: cops, drug testers, prison guards, and rehabs.

You’ll see it again for California 2016, and we may see some of it in Nevada, Arizona, Massachusetts, and Maine from their medical industries as well.

If it becomes possible, Texas, may I recommend that your marijuana legalization law creates a new commission, rather than turning marijuana over to your liquor controllers? Then, have that commission create one set of regulations for growers, processors, wholesalers, and retailers.

The only thing about marijuana that needs to be medical is in allowing the Texas Department of Health to create a voluntary registry of patients with recommendations from their doctors for medical use. That registry gives them a card that allows them to possess more, grow more, and get it all tax-free from the retail shops.

That’s it; marijuana doesn’t have to be the complicated two-tiered medical/recreational systems we’re seeing in Colorado, Washington, and Oregon. And I know Texans are fond of limited, small government, so not having two redundant regulatory, inspection, testing, and licensing schemes seems like a perfect fit for y’all.

I’ll see y’all Feb 27-28 at the SW Cannabis Conference and Expo in Fort Worth.

“Radical” Russ Belville — It’s an Eighties thing, not a Sixties thing…

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1 Comment

  1. February 29, 2016 at 8:02 pm

    When does texas vote on medical marijuana legalization and all out legalization