Everything You Need To Know About The Latest Bill Aiming To Legalize Marijuana In Texas.
On Monday, as the rest of Texas was celebrating our state’s Independence Day, state Rep. David Simpson, R-Longview, was filing a 24-page bill (HB2165) calling for the legalization of marijuana.
Right on! Right?
Well, you might was to hold off a bit on that celebratory bong rip.
Truth is, there’s plenty of reason to believe that the bill won’t pass — namely due to the fact that, unlike marijuana reform bills recently passed in states such as Colorado and Washington, Simpson’s bill doesn’t call for detailed regulation. Or, well, any regulation at all for that matter. In a press release sent out in conjunction with his filing, Simpson says that Texas should regulate marijuana much in the same way it does “tomatoes, jalapeños or coffee.” In that regard, it’s an interesting, if almost inevitably doomed, proposal.
But, hey, this Simpson guy’s still a pretty fascinating character — if mostly because the bulk of his pro-marijuana platform is biblically based.
Also, beyond that — let’s just be real — this is a lot to take in. So, to get you caught up on what it all means, here’s everything you need to know about both Simpson and his bill.
Who is Rep. David Simpson?
• Born in Lubbock, Simpson grew up in Dallas and attended Highland Park High School. The 53-year-old tea party member and fundamentalist Christian is a businessman and an ordained minister who owns a religious publishing house. He’s also the father of seven children, all of whom have been home-schooled.
• He’s been called the “most conservative House member.”
• He was also responsible for that failed anti-groping bill in 2011 that would have made TSA pat-downs at airport security illegal.
Why is such a conservative leader leading the pro-marijuana charge?
• As previously mentioned, most of Simpson’s reasoning comes from the Bible. In a Texas Tribune piece that also ran on Monday, he explained his stance: “I don’t believe that when God made marijuana he made a mistake that government needs to fix.”
• Also in that piece — titled “The Christian Case For Drug Law Reform” — Simpson argues that the usage of marijuana is no worse than using alcohol. In his eyes, “feasting and wine are recognized as blessings from God.”
• He cites Proverbs 3:30 in his stance. That verse: “Do not contend with a man for no reason, when he has done you no harm.”
• He also cites Romans 13, which says that the role of government is to punish wrongdoers — and not those simply using cannabis to treat diseases or make things like rope and paper.
• Also, let’s not forget Genesis 1:12: “The earth produced vegetation: seed-bearing plants according to their kinds and trees bearing fruit with seed in it according to their kinds. And God saw that it was good.”
Why HB2165 has got a shot to pass.
• According to a 2013 poll, 61 percent of Texans say they are in favor of removing penalties for people that possess small amounts of marijuana. Meanwhile, 41 percent of those polled said they support regulating the drug similarly to the way alcohol is handled.
• A recent study from NerdWallet argues that Texas could generate $166 million annually by legalizing marijuana.
• In their official 2012 party platform, Texas Democrats came out in favor of legalization, writing: “This decriminalization of marijuana does not mean we endorse the use of marijuana… Marijuana is no more dangerous than alcohol or tobacco… marijuana is more prevalent than ever before… There is no evidence that marijuana is a ‘gateway’ drug leading to the use of more lethal drugs… Texas Democrats urge the President, the Attorney General and the Congress to support the passage of legislation to decriminalize the possession of marijuana and regulate [its] use, production and sale as is done with tobacco and alcohol. We further urge the immediate decriminalization of the possession and use of medical marijuana.”
• Also? Per the Dallas Morning News, “several Texas counties, including Dallas, are considering — or have begun — money-saving moves to allow police to issue tickets for simple possession, rather than arresting scofflaws on the spot.”
Why HB2165 doesn’t stand a chance.
• The biggest hurdle with Simpson’s bill is the issue with complete deregulation. The main concern there is the issue of people purchasing legal marijuana in Texas and spreading and/or illegally selling it in neighboring states where it’s still illegal.
• Texas is one of only 23 states where cannabis hasn’t yet been legalized or decriminalized — and like Gary Hale, a former intelligence chief in the Drug Intelligence Agency’s Houston division has said, Texas is more likely to tip-toe into legalization than to jump right into Simpson’s plan. Says Hale: “A blanket decriminalization of marijuana and classification as a vegetable is not going to happen. Overall legalization will happen but in my opinion it will happen in incremental baby steps.”
In any case, Simpson’s already accomplished one important step in Texas’ marijuana legalization process, which is to say that he’s put the discussion back at the forefront. And with so many Texans overdosing on synthetic marijuana substitutes in recent years, we’d say that’s a good thing.