Marijuana Legalization bills filed for 2017 legislature
Published 7:37 am Saturday, November 26, 2016
Editorial by Steve Fischer
At age 18, I attended a party where police found tiny amounts of marijuana. Without funds for an attorney, I accepted “deferred probation”. It has followed me my entire life. I graduated from college, law, and graduate school, yet I had to endure a hearing to ascertain my fitness to practice. It also caused employment rejection.
Later as Assistant County Attorney in El Paso, and elected District Attorney in Willacy County, I routinely dismissed pot cases. Prosecutor’s offices have limited budgets, yet mountains of cases. Dismissing marijuana offenses, allowed me to send more dangerous criminals to prison. Even probation for pot was wasteful. Curfews and reporting requirements should be for prowlers and burglars, not pot smokers.
This problem persists, as 620,000 Americans were arrested for pot last year. Yes, illegal marijuana creates jobs for probation officers, prosecutors, bailiffs, chemists, clerical staff and many more; however taxpayers get soaked.
California and three other states legalized marijuana on November 8, 2016. Voters were persuaded by the Colorado experience, where $2.4 billion in revenues and 17,000 jobs were created in legalization’s first year. This year’s final results will be far better. Some of this boom comes from visiting Texans. The Denver Post polled “Would you repeal legalization?” The answer; “No”, by a 51%-36% margin. Gallup’s 2016 poll showed support for legalization has grown to 60%, and recent studies demonstrate no increased use among youngsters since legalization. Colorado is booming, and other states want what they’re smoking.
The old “Reefer Madness” arguments against marijuana have been dispelled. Today’s legalization opponents such as Insys Therapeutics, which develops synthetic painkillers, poured $500,000 into the “No” vote. It’s these “legal” painkillers, which cause so much addiction and harm. Prescription drugs increase our health costs and “Big Pharma” doesn’t want competition. The Catholic Church was also a huge contributor, with the Boston Archdiocese alone, donating $850,000. Wouldn’t their money be better spent helping needy children with winter coats…or victims of pedophilia? I believe most attorneys however, are for legalization, even though it will reduce our income.
One lingering anti-pot argument is that people will ingest and drive. This happens anyway and it will be illegal everywhere. Not satisfied, opponents wonder how they will test for marijuana. Field tests still work, but jeez, how about we just arm each officer with a chocolate bar, and they could cuff the stoned drivers as they grab for it.
Legalization will come eventually, as it’s only the oldest ages groups who are opposed. Nancy Reagan “Just said No”, however 15,000,000 Americans use it regularly, and about half our population has admitted trying marijuana. Legalization bills for the 2017 Texas Legislature, have been filed. Republicans are increasingly in favor, because of the fiscal benefits, and individual freedom arguments. Democrats are already there, and almost everyone wants to decrease the power of the violent drug cartels who smuggle pot across our border. Let’s legalize it, and have Mexico put up the wall, to keep Texans from trafficking marijuana into their country.
Attorney Steve Fischer has been a Professor of Criminology and a Texas State Bar Director. Sfischerlaw@gmail.com