On July 1, I was in Las Vegas when Nevada became the eighth state to legalize recreational marijuana use for persons 21 and older. Eighteen other states have already or will soon legalize the medical use of marijuana. Several other states are considering decriminalizing possession of minor amounts of marijuana. Recently, the Texas Legislature toyed with legalizing medical marijuana, but that went nowhere.

I visited a retail dispensary located near a restaurant that my group planned to have breakfast. Scheduled to open at 8 a.m., it already had about 30 people lined up outside by 7:45 a.m. America was well represented at that dispensary. The men and women gathered were well behaved, friendly and chatty. They ranged from young adults to senior citizens. Whites, blacks, Hispanics, and Asians were present. I talked to as many of the folks as I could and among them were retirees, a teacher, an engineer, a casino worker, several construction workers, and they included both locals and tourists. I suspect other dispensaries had a similar cross-section of America at their locations.

One thing everyone had in common was the liberating feeling of not being tagged as a criminal. Every year hundreds of thousands of Americans get swept up in the justice system for possession of minor quantities of marijuana. The American Civil Liberties Union reported that marijuana related offenses make up over half of all drug related crimes in the United States. The ACLU also reported that minorities are arrested more often than whites even though minorities have about the same usage rates. Blacks are almost four times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession than whites according to the ACLU. Last December, the FBI released data recording almost 620,000 arrests nationwide for the offense of possession of marijuana, which worked out to be about one arrest every minute over the year.

Local TV news reported that sales were so good that inventory designated for recreational use was rapidly depleting. That didn’t surprise me. During a taxi ride later that day, we rode by a different dispensary that had a waiting line about a half-block long. About $3 million in marijuana sales and about $500,000 in tax revenue was reported for the period July 1-4.

Marijuana generated tax revenue has been a relief for cash-strapped states loathe to burden their citizens with tax increases. Those states that have legalized recreational use of marijuana haven’t reported any increase in crime due to its legalization. Moreover, medical research has documented the many positive benefits of marijuana, particularly in seizure relief and pain relief. In a time of record opiate addiction rates across America, marijuana is a much safer pain relief alternative than opiates.

During this special session, our Legislature ought to get to work on decriminalizing marijuana and regulating it like alcohol and tobacco. At a minimum it ought to authorize it for medical use. Unfortunately, what we were going to get is some law about who has to use what restroom.

Roberto Torres is an attorney at law in Galveston and writes columns from a progressive perspective.

(54) comments

Carlos Ponce

True medicinal marijuana is high in cannabidiol (CBD). The hallucinatory THC is extremely low or virtually non-existent. Medicinal marijuana can treat anxiety, depression, schizophrenia and Alzheimer's disease — without causing the munchies. It doesn't get you "high". Street marijuana has been cultivated for getting a bigger "high" - not good since it impairs judgement.
http://healthland.time.com/2012/06/04/a-new-marijuana-plant-without-the-high-it-could-be-good-medicine/
Recommendation: Actual medicinal marijuana high in CBD with little to no THC should be made available by prescription. And keep recreational marijuana, high in THC, on the banned list. States that have allowed its sale see an increased use among teens, pre-teens and an increase in accidents which offset the taxes generated by its sale.

Jim Forsythe

When looking at increases in accidents, it not as easy as to say it went up because of  Legalizing marijuana.
Texas did not legalizing its use, and our rate increased  at about the same rate.
 
"This is part of a disturbing trend in which traffic deaths and injuries in Texas have increased by 20 percent since 2011 after decades of decline."
"DPS' goal is to go one day without a fatal crash on a Texas roadway before Nov. 7. There has not been one traffic-fatality-free day in Texas since 2000."
"Legalizing recreational marijuana use in Colorado, Oregon and Washington has resulted in collision claim frequencies that are about 3 percent higher per year overall than would have  been expected without legalization"

If you have read "County must correct jail problems before it's forced to" in the GDN, it lays out how overcrowding is cost us big time. 
People in jail lose jobs, and can not pay taxes  Child support can not be paid and so on..
Also the increases taxes collected on the sale of Legalizing recreational marijuana is also part of it.
As Texans ,we must decide what is best for us.

Carlos Ponce

"Study finds 100 percent increase in fatal pot-related crashes in Colorado"
http://www.thedenverchannel.com/news/local-news/study-finds-100-percent-increase-in-fatal-pot-related-crashes-in-colorado
And in Texas: "Traffic Deaths, Injuries in Texas Have Jumped 20 Percent Since 2011"
http://www.stephensanderson.com/blog/texas-traffic-deaths-increase.html
"This is part of a disturbing trend in which traffic deaths and injuries in Texas have increased by 20 percent since 2011 after decades of decline.
This mirrors a nationwide trend of increasing traffic fatalities, which includes pedestrians and those riding motorcycles and bicycles.
Police in Texas believe several factors have played a role in the increase in deaths and injuries on our roadways:
Speeding - Some parts of the state have higher speed limits than others, creating more opportunities for serious accidents.
Driving under the influence of alcohol - Texas led the nation in drunk driving deaths in 2015, with California a distant second.
Distracted driving - Taking your eyes off the road for just two seconds can cause an accident or prevent you from making a maneuver to avoid an accident, according to the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS).
Failing to wear a seat belt - NHTSA statistics reveal that nearly 50 percent of automobile passengers who lost their lives in accidents were not wearing their seat belts."
So while in Texas watch the speed limit, don't drink and drive, don't get distracted by anythings especially don't text while driving. Adding recreational marijuana to the mix is just adding to the death count.

Jim Forsythe

"This mirrors a nationwide trend of increasing traffic fatalities, which includes pedestrians and those riding motorcycles and bicycles  "
The increase in the states that have  Legalizing marijuana, could be partly be just the national trend.

How many people were driving after smoking marijuana, before the legalizing happen ,compared to after it was legalized. If the number has increased, that could account for more having it in their systems, when accidents happens.
 That is a number that is impossible to be verified. 

Colorado
"It says that in 2012 there were 78 fatalities where someone involved in the accident (a driver, bike rider, pedestrian) tested positive for marijuana, compared to 39 in 2007. " "(Testing positive for marijuana) could mean you smoked marijuana 3 weeks ago. It does not mean you were impaired at the spot 
"Both inside and outside the state, people are fixated on gleaning what they can from the first few years of retail marijuana sales. And while many will always insist the sky has fallen (pretty sure it hasn't) and others will only see a 420 paradise (also not seeing it), there's still a wide swath of reasonable types in the middle who nonetheless form conclusions first and find supporting evidence second.
Problem is, there's sometimes evidence out there to support different conclusions. Take the question: Has marijuana use among youth gone up or down in the legal era? There are commonly cited studies that "prove" both answers. People pull them out to justify whatever point they're trying to make."

Oregon
The insurance lobby says states with legal marijuana have had a 14 percent increase in accidents. Traffic deaths are down 50 percent this year. Did last year's drunken 100-mph maniacs morph into spacey, 15-mph fender-bending stoners

So, in a post-fact world, the takeaway here is not "just choose your study and keep believing whatever you want to believe 

George Croix

Of course.
We NEED more mentally impaired people on the highways and byways.....
One way to increase the number of personal injury lawsuits.
Hmmmmm....could it be....
Naaaahhh...just a coincidence......

Diane Turski

I agree that we should absolutely legalize medical Marijuana in Texas! Stop this nonsensical "reefer madness" attitude! Also, the federal government should declassify it as a dangerous drug!!

Carlos Ponce

Depends on which marijuana you're talking about.
Keep THC hallucinogen Marijuana on the banned list, allow CBD Medical Marijuana.

Christopher Fluke

Just wondering, do you drink beer, wine or any other alchoholic beverage?

Carlos Ponce

Are you asking me, Christopher Fluke? If so, I've never drank a beer. On rare occasions I do drink wine or a frozen margarita - perhaps one of each in a year.

Kelly Naschke

Finally something I agree with Roberto on.

Don Schlessinger

Ditto

Lisa Gray

I would completely agree with the use of medical marijuana in our state. My sister suffered horribly from an aggressive cancer and passed away last year. If it could have eased her suffering, I would be all for it. There are so many medicinal properties that could benefit many people with diagnoses such as cancer, epilepsy and some neurological issues. The use of recreational marijuana is a different story. Just ask the residents of Colorado how manyfold their homeless street population has increased. People flock to these areas and end up becoming a nuisance and a drain on resources. I would love to see Texas legalize the medical marijuana but I highly doubt that the pharmaceutical companies will let that happen. There is too much money to be made in astronomically priced medications that people will gladly pay for if there is a promise to save or prolong a loved ones life. Sad and disgusting.

Gary Scoggin

I am surprised that more Conservatives are not in favor of legalizing marijuana. Instead, they favor big government telling individuals what they can and cannot do.

Carlos Ponce

The current marijuana on the streets is high in THC. It is far more potent than the marijuana of the sixties.There are fiscal conservatives and social conservatives. It's Libertarians who usually frown on government control of anything. But I know a few Libertarians who "favor big government telling individuals what they can and cannot do" when it comes to marijuana.

George Croix

Gary, we've got enough problems with legalized idiocy, imo, resulting from alcohol consumption, which is why this conservative does not favor abolishing dope laws just so a bunch of potheads can make my family's trips on the road less safe than they are already are with the drunks.
Medical MJ? Absolutely. I'm all for less suffering for people with a legitimate need.
But how does one control that, unless consumption is in the Doctor's office?
Look how that got subverted in Colorado and other geographical nesting places for intoxicant abusers....given an inch, the dopers take a mile......just like the drunks.
Imo, again....
The sick need help.
The dopers do, too, but not in the same way, and they don't think there's anything wrong with losing touch with reality, anyway....so it seems....present article as an example....
Why does anyone suppose an attorney advocates for more impaired people.....?

BTW, Gary, conservatism is not a condition where abdication of common sense is mandatory just because regulations are involved.....
No need to cope the opposition...[wink][whistling]

Gary Scoggin

It seems to me that liberals like to tell others what they should do with their money while conservatives like to tell others what they should do with their bodies.

Carlos Ponce

And does Gary have no qualms about people doing things to their body with no government regulation?
Go ahead, get boozed up and drive. The people you run into and possibly KILL will respect your right to do with your body what you want.
Go ahead, get stoned and drive. The people you run into and possibly KILL will respect your right to do with your body what you want.
Go ahead and get stoned or drink in the privacy of your home. The government will respect your right to do so and let your body lie there without intervention when you go too far.
What Conservatives believe in is limited government within Constitutional bounds. No government leads to mayhem.

Gary Scoggin

So, Carlos, to be clear, you are in favor for legalizing marijuana for personal use so long as a person under the influence doesn't drive or endanger others, i.e., give it the same status as alcohol. I think we are in agreement. Is that correct?

Carlos Ponce

No we are not in agreement. From the FIRST post in this forum I expressed my views:
"Recommendation: Actual medicinal marijuana high in CBD with little to no THC should be made available by prescription. And keep recreational marijuana, high in THC, on the banned list."
REAL medicinal marijuana does not get you high.

George Croix

May be true of some, Gary....probably even many.....I'll grant you.
Me, I don't generally care to tell anyone what to do to THEMSELVES...as long as it effects THEM personally...and harms nobody else...physically or financially... and THEY pay for their own fun and upkeep....
If drunks and dopers want to consume till they drop dead on their living room floor that's just fine with me.....
It's when they harm others that is an attention getter...
It's not much different than the abortion "it's my body and my choice" stuff to me.
It's NOT unless the chooser is the one ending up dead in a trash can.
Or unless the intoxicated is the one in a twisted wreck bleeding out.
Have at it then....but spare me the 'my choice' bunk unless it actually only effects self......
Heck, I'm actually in FAVOR of the federal government supplying dope and booze to anybody who'll agree to get locked in a room and keep hitting it until they croak...
Save society money in the long run....
But, that's just me....
And in no way does it include, to me, people seeking legitimate relief from severe pain or chronic medical condition and the only help is doctor prescribed medicinal intoxicants....
But, again, that's SO easily turned into WAY more than intended....
Just look at the freak shows in Colorado, et al....
The honest almost always suffer from the actions of the screw ups....

George Croix

Cope?
Copy....close enough.....

Dan Freeman

As usual the truth about CBD and THC is messy. We still do not know enough about either to make definitive statements. But it appears the combination works best for relief from a number of illnesses. https://www.projectcbd.org/guidance/cbd-misconceptions There is little hard evidence that either is better or worse than alcohol. So lighten up and stop being a blue nose. Let adults choose how to relax without Washington and Austin getting involved. Maybe we should all try some meditation.

Doyle Beard


speak for y ourself . I don't want any of the junk

George Croix

Blue nose?
Is that what 'progressives' call people who want to limit the possibilities that his family will be hurt by ever more intoxicated 'escape-from-reality- wannabes?
If so, might wanta rethink it..
Nothing to do with morals to me...everything to do with safety and self-defense....
BTW...do you actually get away with telling people to 'lighten up'...in person, I mean...?

Gary Scoggin

I can say that George's nose is neither blue nor brown.

Robert Braeking

The truth is that criminalization has lead to a black market that is run by the dregs of society. They are spraying their "product" with horse tranquilizer and, lately, elephant tranquilizer which has killed a lot of their 'patrons'.

If marijuana were legal then the societal costs would be no more detrimental than the beer trade. It is a fairly innocuous drug in its pure form and those who partake become mellow and non-aggressive.

Prohibition did not work with alcohol. What makes the lawmakers suspect that it will work with any other drug? The DEA should be abolished along with the FDA control of ALL drugs. The sole purpose of the FDA should be to certify safety.

I suspect that drugs remain illegal for the same reason that the Southern border remains porous. The lawmakers, I suspect, are profiting from the trade.

PD Hyatt

What the progressives really want is for ALL drugs to be legalized.... They are pushing for pot at the moment but you can be assured that they will continue to push for more and more as that is their nature.... Progressives seem to have no morals and wants the nation to join them as they slide down the slippery slope.... I say keep pot and all other illegal drugs off the market and the streets....

Robert Braeking

We who love liberty want all drugs legalized as well. What business is it of the government to require that we pay a doctor to write a prescription so that we can pay a pharmacist to fill it? That is a fascist government at work. If I get an ear infection I need to go through the process to get relief because there are no over-the-counter medications available for ear infections. Think how cumbersome it would be if one needed to get a prescription from your mechanic to be able to go to the auto supply to buy spark plugs. That sounds as ridiculous as the government regulation of pharmaceuticals - recreational or otherwise.

Carlos Ponce

"We who love liberty want all drugs legalized as well."
Not all drugs. And wanting some drugs banned and others available by prescription is just common sense, not fascist government. Already prescribed drugs have side effects and the law firm of "Dewey, Cheatham and Howell" will help you file a lawsuit. But who are going to sue when you or a loved one is incapacitated by what you propose?

Robert Braeking

If YOU need to be regulated it is all well and good. After all, a man needs to know his limitations. Just don't stifle the rest of us. Open pharmacies work in most of the rest of the world. No problem. Are Americans that stupid?

George Croix

I love liberty.
But also know that nothing is absolute.
The price of society is giving up some liberties.
Which ones, and the extent to which abdicated, are debatable.
That's where laws come from.
Imagine no restrictions at all on drugs...any drugs....
No laws...open season...do as you will with what you will...
Then, buy stock in funeral homes...and watch the attorneys get wealthier....
While at it, might want to lock and load yourself, too......before somebody else's liberty tries to break into your home to feed their freedom....

As always, imo.....

Martin Connor

AHHH! The old marijuana debate. It's definitely making headway the past few years. Me?? i never liked the stuff.I'm slow enough mentally on my own. But i did try it a few times 25+ years ago in college. However it is illegal and scared the dickens out of me to try it then. Why that and not the underage drinking that took place? IDK, but i guess the stigma. Even though I'm not a user or fan, my opinion on it changed over the years. Partially because i noticed some of the things i heard about it growing up were not true.Not everyone that used was a stoner-spaced out-pot head. Sure, some were incompetent, low ambition, low-lifes, that had no goals or direction, but more than not, some where hard working dedicated family people that preferred smoking a little pot on the weekends over alcohol consumption. I never judged, but noticed they were no different than most of society. By in large, i knew more people that had alcohol issues than marijuana issues. The dredges of our society will use any substance they can get their hands on to fullfill their need to get high. if weed it their choice, they will get it legally or illegally. Just like coke, meth, opiates(which is way worse then marijuana, but you cant just make it in your bathtub) or any other mind altering drug, abusers will steal, rob or do whatever it takes to get their fix. I just cant see an increase in crime or whatnot if it is made legal.

I have two friends, one lives in Colorado and the other in California. Both are users for recreational purposes. Both have jobs, families and are doing quite well. Both were extremely happy when their respective states legalized. I have spoken to both regarding the issues with it and both responded they were minimal and the taxes and regulations imposed had positive impacts. (Cali is broken regardless, but thats another issue). I just think the doom and gloom mentality of legalization is overblown and the majority of society(majority not all) has no issue with it. I know many conservatives who are not users and are not opposed.

IDK, it just seems to me the most dangerous of drugs out side of cocaine, heroin and meth is our prescription epidemic with opiates. However there is just too much money to be lost with a complete ban on those. Thousands of lives are lost daily on that horrible addiction due to overdoses, but not one person has ever od'd on weed.

But this is all just my lowly opinion. So take it how you want..

George Croix

Mental pictures:
Your commercial airline flight pilot smoking pot as you board.
A crane operator doing the same before a critical lift.
A refinery process operator mellowed out at the control board.
Your personal cancer surgeon stoned....
Yes, they could get drunk, too. Booze being legal...and some people being determined to put their own self-centered lack of control ahead of all else, but either the booze breath or the peppermint smell might at least be a possible giveaway....
So, in a country where 'liberty' meets reality on a daily basis, where enduring requires some stepping aside from time to time, is it the answer to increase the number of chances for intoxication to meet critical decision situations....?

Can't see it...

Robert Braeking

George,
Alcohol is legal. Does the average person go around drunk all the time? That is the logic you are using in your argument. Only losers would be stoned and they are not surgeons, crane operators, or airline pilots. You are not logical. Rethink and resubmit.

Carlos Ponce

" Only losers would be stoned and they are not surgeons, crane operators, or airline pilots." Agreed.
"In 1990, less than 10% of the pilots studied has a positive toxicology finding. By 2011, 40% of pilots killed in a plane crash were determined to have ingested at least one drug prior in the 24 hours prior to flying. ...Marijuana was the most common illegal drug found in the NTSB study, followed by illicit use of prescription drugs like opioids and benzodiazepines."
https://www.theflightexpert.com/is-your-commercial-airline-pilot-high/

Robert Braeking

RE: your NTSB study. Marijuana is fat soluable. Naturally the NTSB would find it as most common because one does not have to be under its influence to test positive. Residuals remain for 30 days or more. Opioid residuals remain 2-4 days. Benzodiazepine residuals remain for 2-28 days. I would surmise that your study is invalid as it tests for the residuals and not if the subject was under the influence at the time.

Carlos Ponce

We're not talking about residual. "40% of pilots killed in a plane crash were determined to have ingested at least one drug prior in the 24 hours prior to flying"
"in the 24 hours prior to flying", not a month ago.

Robert Braeking

Figures don't lie but liars figure. By your figures 60% of the pilots killed in crashes were found to have not taken drugs prior to being dead anyway. Of those who had how can it be determined that they were under the influence of those substances while flying? The two drugs you mentioned in your study other than MaryChangeAwayna are prescription medications for pain and anti-anxiety medications and under proper dosages actually improve one's ability to perform one's duties as a pilot.

Robert Braeking

From your study - " However, illicit drugs were found in only 2.8 percent of all study pilots following a crash, suggesting that the rate of illicit drug use among general aviation pilots is quite low. " Looks like your are picking and choosing text to put some meat on the bun of your nothing-burger.

George Croix

We're not talking about the average person, Robert.
We're talking about people who think intoxicating themselves is fine.
Which is fine with me, as long as they only effect themselves.
The average person doesn't get drunk and go drive a car into an innocent family.
It's the non-average person abusing a legal substance. Losers, as you call them....
But, hey, I got your position statement from your really well thought out and submitted comment below.
Nice job...


Steve Fouga

I'll throw my vote in for legalization. I feel that what isn't harmful should be legal.

Through years of observation, I've seen that marijuana use has had no negative impact on any of the dozens of users I've known. None at all. On the other hand, certain legal activities have had plenty of negative impact.

On top of that, laws always come with an enforcement penalty -- more LEOs, more jail space, legal fees, bureaucratic administration, etc. There's also an opportunity cost: jobs, taxes, and so on.

So let's restore some freedom, eliminate some expense, and boost the economy. [cool]

Carlos Ponce

It won't happen in the state of Texas.[beam]

Steve Fouga

Sure it will. Matter of time. [cool]

Carlos Ponce

Sounds like a pipe dream to me.

Gary Scoggin

Carlos is right. It won't happen in Texas for a long time. Especially as long as its run by a party hell bent on imposing its moral code on everyone.

George Croix

I wasn't aware that limiting the opportunities for intoxication related mayhem was a moral issue....
I learn something new every day....
If the dopers only effected themselves, then they can dope till they all die for all I care. But, that's not the case, is it....if it were, there would be no rehab centers, ot a single occupant of which, except for any who were hermits, got there without causing somebody somewhere some misery they should not have had to suffer.
Unfortunately, seems we have quite enough trouble with the drunks abusing legal intoxicants....
Morality my big backside.....it's like making the killing of babies a moral issue, rather than an infanticide one.....

George Croix

Just not harmful to the user, or does the collateral damage ever become a factor in 'liberty'...?
Besides to those who became collateral, I mean....[whistling]

Steve Fouga

Collateral damage should most definitely be a factor in liberty.

But if you mean people becoming impaired by using weed and then doing something that endangers others, it's just not very common. Many legal activities are more dangerous. Sure, it's possible to single out some cases, but by doing so it begs the question of why more common and more dangerous activities are still legal -- alcohol consumption, legal use of opiates, using a cellphone while driving, eating while driving, doing anything while driving...

George Croix

There ya go...if problems already exist en masse in several areas, the way to mitigate them is to increase the number of areas with problems...

I get it....

Robert Braeking

George, you seem to be the kind of person who wants to regulate the height of the grass in my yard. It's none of your business.
Bob

George Croix

You sure are perceptive, Bob.
Can't fool you.....

Robert Braeking

Your premise is wrong. You believe that if drugs were legal everyone would be stoned. You wouldn't. I wouldn't. I believe that if all drugs would be legal then they would be cheaper. Cheaper drugs. Less crime to support the habit. What do you want to do? Rid our society of drug addicts by executing them where you find them?

Steve Fouga

Well, yes, when the benefits outweigh the penalties.

George Croix

"You believe that if drugs were legal everyone would be stoned.'
I DO???
Coulda fooled me. When did I start believing that?
No. Your supposition is wrong.
Legal alcohol doesn't mean everyone using it is a drunk. It just makes it easier for clowns who are going to get plastered and create trouble to do so.
I fail to see how a bunch of legalized dope heads will improve the safety and well-being of the community, although no doubt many who simply cannot abide being out of the influence of something or other will no doubt mellow out and cause nobody a problem.
It's not the social users who go out and cause problems....
Actually, I'm all FOR legalization but let the Feds control it all, as 'local control' is how parts of Colorado are turning into a dopers heaven, and dole it out to anybody who wants it IF they are willing to stay locked up in a nice big room until they get high then come back to earth.
I don't care if anybody wants to screw themselves up, just if they are then in a position to screw up other folks.
Maybe over 3 decades of working where random testing was used to prevent some screw up from blowing the place up any more than it would all by itself anyway has some influence on me....not a moral one....a do-no-unnecessary-harm one.....
But, that's just me.
Talk till the moon turns blue, I'll still consider dopers and drunks weak willed dregs of society....
That's why this is in the opinion section.....
Also because I really don't care whether anybody agrees or not...in person or on the internet.....[wink]
But, that's just me.....
If 'harmless' dope is legalized for open consumption by any buzz head who wants it, I'll accept and adapt to it...law's the law....but any negative impact visited on my family by one of them will not be suffered gladly....same as for drunks.....

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