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Friday, December 6, 2019

Opinion

Marijuana should be decriminalized


The decriminalization of marijuana should be a state issue, as marijuana can benefit many people. | Photo courtesy of Neeta Lind via WikiCommons

Texas is one of 21 states to report vaping-related deaths in the past few months, yet across college campuses, you may hear, “Are you risking it?”

The recent vaping-related deaths are the first accounts linking vaping to marijuana consumption. As reports of these deaths emerge, the importance of quality control should be at the forefront of conversations with the realization that prohibition is the cause of death.

While CBD, hemp and marijuana laws are coming into question, Houstonians must address decriminalization and legalization. 

The decriminalization and legalization of cannabis would allow states to regulate the quality of cannabis. Synthetic marijuana, for instance, burdens Houston Fire Department’s Emergency Medical Services because of its revolving door of chemical composition, accessibility and the relatively low cost. 

Houston must take action to prove that decriminalization works in order to initiate the legalization of cannabis. Making cannabis legal can benefit Texas farmers, minority communities, consumers, local head shops and future medical dispensaries across the state. 

If local and state officials continue to ban together, Texas holds the power to assist in the de-scheduling of cannabis on federal levels, giving states more control. 

As Houston continues to modify local ordinances and criminal justice practices, the city must focus on safety relating to drugged driving, if anything, rather than consumption or possession of cannabis.

The redefinition of cannabis in Texas and Houston’s Misdemeanor Marijuana Diversion Program is a beneficial effort in decriminalization, but it is time to truly focus on public safety.

On June 10, Gov. Greg Abbott blurred the lines of cannabis use in Texas by redefining marijuana as any cannabis substance with over 0.3 percent THC concentrate, the psychoactive chemical in the cannabis plant. The reason you’ll often hear the terms CBD, hemp and marijuana interchangeably is that hemp and marijuana are species of cannabis plants that contain CBD, among other substances.

This redefinition of 0.3 percent THC as the distinguishing factor between hemp and marijuana has caused strife around local laws that prosecute low-level marijuana charges across the state. Many Texas crime labs do not have the equipment to distinguish the THC percentages between legal industrial hemp and illegal marijuana, which is mandatory for prosecution.

Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg voiced her opinion against spending her office’s resources, in the tune of $28 million, on prosecuting low-level marijuana cases.

In 2017, Ogg implemented a pre-charge diversion program to keep nonviolent misdemeanor marijuana arrests away from courts as well as reduced penalties for possession across Harris County.

The Misdemeanor Marijuana Diversion Program offers a 90-day window to complete a four-hour educational course to eliminate jail time and the life-altering impact of the criminal label.

Our state and city have provided avenues to initiate the decriminalization and legalization of cannabis, saving 10,000 Houstonians a year from convictions, fines or mandated programs. Now, it is up to us to become more politically engaged.

As state elections conclude and primary elections begin, I encourage Houstonians to take action by aligning with organizations such as Foundation for an Informed Texas, Texas NORML, Republicans Against Marijuana Prohibition or Texans for Responsible Marijuana Policy. The decriminalization and legalization of cannabis depend upon who you vote into office.

Chelsea Dalton Pederson is a social work graduate student and can be reached at [email protected]


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