Tuesday, March 10, 2015

It's Not About Getting High

by Texas State Representative David P. Simpson

There is nothing like filing a bill where both sides of an issue have strongly held positions, and I have the opportunity to interact with all. I appreciate and respect those who have called, emailed, or posted on my Facebook page with their opinions on HB 2165 which would repeal all marijuana offenses in Texas statutes.
 I do not advocate the irresponsible use of marijuana or any substance, but those are choices that should be made by individuals, not the state. We have plenty of laws to deal with those who harm their neighbor and these will remain in force if this law is passed.

Some of those in opposition to the concept have inferred that my comment in the op-ed that “as a Christian I see the innate goodness in all that God created” as approval of marijuana’s recreational use. That was not my point.

My point is that
government has gotten it wrong when it comes to marijuana.  Marijuana is classified as a Schedule I drug, meaning that it is defined by the government as a drug with no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse. However, since that classification, at least 23 states have legalized the plant for medical use. Marijuana, used irresponsibly, can have some bad side effects. But many pharmaceuticals, used as intended, have even worse side effects. Compare the side effects of prescription painkillers, antidepressants, or chemotherapy drugs to the side effects of marijuana. Should people be allowed to make a choice between the two? Also, compare the side effects of marijuana to the countless substances and activities, which may not be the best choice for the individual, but which we tolerate and do not prohibit.

When marijuana was originally outlawed most scholars agree that the laws were motivated by hype, racism, and perhaps an industry or two seeking to control competition from hemp in some commodities markets. Hemp, coming from the same plant as marijuana (but from a strain with extremely low THC), is the strongest and most durable of all natural fibers. It produces four times as much fiber per acre as pine trees and could be an ideal source of biomass for fuel. To this day, cultivation of industrial hemp requires a permit from the Drug Enforcement Agency (rarely given out) with conditions that the crop be surrounded by security measures such as fences, razor wire, security guards, or dogs.

Thus,
we are missing out on both the medicinal and economic value of a plant God has given us that, coincidentally, can also be abused. Comments in emails and Facebook posts have focused on the fact that God also made poisonous snakes and hemlock, but that does not mean we should use them recreationally. That is so true, and I no more suggest that people should use marijuana recreationally than I suggest that people play with rattlesnakes. The difference is, the state does not prohibit playing with rattlesnakes, and some people actually bring them to the Capitol and let other people play with them.

Of course, another difference is that no one has ever died from the use of marijuana. It is nontoxic. This fact does not mean it’s a good idea for a person to use it recreationally, but it does underscore the fact that it does not need intense government regulation.

Meanwhile, I do not think it is right that we punish citizens who are not harming their neighbor. We may disagree with their use of the plant, but when should the state step in? We have 70,000 people incarcerated in Texas simply for possession of marijuana.

I understand the desire to send the right messages to our children. However, prohibition does more than send a message. It creates many problems. We may not want a teenager to experiment with marijuana, but would we rather that discussion be between parents and the child or the child and the police?
 
What motivated me to file the bill at this time is a desire to help constituents who desire access to the natural plant for treatment of seizures, PTSD, cancer, etc. I want to expand liberty and restore personal responsibility without creating another bureaucracy like the ATF on the state level to regulate it, nor a registry that a future federal administration might use as evidence of breaking federal law.

Getting back to the basics on this issue will put parents in charge of their children’s lives and adults in charge of their own.
It is time to reject nanny state policies and restore limited civil government, individual liberty, and personal responsibility.

HB 2165 Frequently Asked Questions


Is marijuana a gateway drug? Perhaps, but is it a gateway because of the chemical influence or because of the criminal element that a person is involved with in obtaining the plant?
 
What can I do to help get the bill passed? Contact your elected officials and express your support for the bill. Pray for me.
 
Why do you encourage recreational use of marijuana by saying all things created by God are for good? What I said in my op-ed is that “As a Christian, I recognize the innate goodness of everything God made and humanity’s charge to be stewards of the same.” I do not encourage the irresponsible use of any plant, chemical, or other substance. I do not allow my children to consume caffeine until they are in their teenage years and then only in moderation. I instruct them on its addictive nature and potential abuse. Anything can be used for evil, but that does not make it evil. Cannabis can be used for much good.
 
Why do you want to legalize the plant that can harm you just because God made it? Many plants aren’t good for human consumption. Some of them can even kill you. However, we do not need to outlaw them to avoid their irresponsible use. To my knowledge there are no confirmed reports of dying from marijuana, unlike synthetic marijuana.
 
Won’t this increase impaired driving accidents? The research on driving accidents does not support any special fear about marijuana. While most studies will agree that the number of people who test positive for marijuana use in driving accidents has increased, there is less evidence to indicate that the drug use was directly related to the accident.  Colorado accident rates were at a near historic low in 2013The federal government recently conducted a study and concluded that marijuana potential contribution to accidents was not statistically significant.
 Have you researched what legalization has done in Colorado? Yes. It is mixed. I encourage you to do your own research of the issue and look at the information from both sides of the argument.
 
Do you believe that there should be some regulatory scheme to protect children from getting marijuana? My favorite regulatory scheme for minors is parents. They have the greatest opportunity of preventing bad behavior. Prohibiting the sale of tobacco and alcohol for minors has not stopped the use and abuse of those products, though education has.
 
Why are you bringing this bill up now? I filed the bill to help constituents who desire access to the natural plant for treatment of seizures, PTSD, cancer, etc. I want to expand liberty and restore personal responsibility without creating more bureaucracy. There are other bills promoting the legalization of marijuana for medical purposes, but they create a regulatory scheme that would be counter productive and create more government. They also create a registry of all medical users. Should the federal government choose to come into the state and enforce federal statutes, we would be giving them the information needed to prosecute.
 
What happens if someone smokes marijuana and has a car crash killing someone? Driving impaired is illegal, whether it be under the influence of cough medicine, alcohol, or marijuana. This bill would not change any penalties for harming another person currently in statute.
 
Why do you keep saying there are medical benefits when there are so many studies saying there aren’t? There are studies on both sides of this issue. To date, 23 states have legalized marijuana for medical use. I am not a medical expert, but I have heard numerous first hand accounts from people in Texas and across the country that have said it has helped them, including veterans. I believe people should be given the freedom to make responsible decisions about their health without being criminals, and I trust them more than I do government to keep them safe from themselves.
 
Were you smoking marijuana when you came up with this idea? No, and I never have.

1 comment:

carl truan said...

I am very pleased with HB2165 and I pray that it passes! I want to thank Senator Simpson for caring about the people and I pray for his health, happiness, and SUCCESS! People in TEXAS need relief and this is a big step in that direction! I COMPLETELY AGREE WITH EVERYTHING MR. SIMPSON SAYS ON THIS ! THANK YOU SIR ! We want our freedom as human beings