Groups seek policy change

Alyssa Foley, Editor In Chief

Growing Support for Marijuana Legalization

There are people in Texas who are ready to see Rep. Moody’s Civil Penalties Bill become law.

Jason Miller, Executive Director of the Houston chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws said that, “I’m optimistic that it’s going to make some major headway. How far it’s going to get, it’s just kinda a wait and see kinda thing. ”

Hunter White, Communications Director of the Texas-based Republicans Against Marijuana Prohibition shared Miller’s enthusiasm. “We’re optimistic. It’s a baby step, but it’s a common sense policy. And people seem to be on board.”

H.B. 507 would not make smoking weed legal, but legalization in Texas is the ultimate goal of both organizations. According Pew Research Center poll, Americans seem to be warming up to the idea of legalization. 54% of Americans believe Marijuana should be legal, 42% believe it should be illegal. The trend has been shifting towards legalization since 1990.  

“We’re very optimistic that not only has public opinion changed, but the laws are going to change along with that,” Miller said, “…it’s just a matter of time before we’re able to get the legislature to be, you know, aligned with the voters they represent.”

“We’re going to have to wait and see how far the bills make it—if they make it through committees,” Miller cautioned, “A lot of this is going to rely on testimony that happens in the hearings.”

“But this is going to continue,” Miller resolved, “this is going to continue in every legislative session until we have full legalization…”

While he’s optimistic, White discussed the opposition the bill will face in the in the Republican majority Texas legislature. “You have lots of Republicans who don’t understand how prohibition is in a lot of ways contradictory to where the party stands on individual liberty, personal choice, personal freedom, the idea that you shouldn’t have the government telling you what you can or can’t put in your body. There are Republicans who see that, but you also have some that don’t because for one reason or another, they have a moral objection.” White and other members of Republicans Against Marijuana Prohibition work within the party and legislature to advocate for change.

According to a recent, national survey on drug use, the number of Americans who used marijuana in the last month increased from 14.5 million in 2007 (5.8%) to 18.9 million in 2012 (7.3%). “You can’t just try to reduce the demand through enforcing these laws, because it doesn’t work,” Miller said, “…it’s never going to work. There is always going to be a demand.”

Supporters of drug reform can attend Miller’s NORML group’s monthly events. “We have a lot of people that come to our meetings,” Miller began, “that are doctors, parents, teachers, former police officers [and] attorneys… It’s not necessarily people that smoke a lot, there’s a lot of people involved with this movement that don’t smoke at all. A lot of times it’s because they have a family member or a close friend that has a medical condition.” A condition, he added, with symptoms that can be treated with medical marijuana.

Miller also mentioned,“There’s also going to be a comprehensive medical Marijuana bill that’s going to be introduced as well.” Such a bill needs to be filed before March 13, the last day to file a bill for consideration in the 87th Texas Legislative session.

The Health and Human Services Survey on Drug Use can be found here.

While the Pew Research Center report can be accessed here.