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Texas Sheriffs Association

Medical marijuana gets its committee hearing

Don’t know that it will get more than just that committee hearing, however.

House Bill 892 would legalize oils containing CBD, a non-euphoric component of marijuana known to treat epilepsy and other chronic medical conditions. By 2018, the measure would allow the state to regulate and distribute the oils to epilepsy patients whose symptoms have not responded to federally approved medication. The measure was left pending by the House Committee on Public Health.

At the hearing, supporters of the proposal, also known as the Compassionate Use Act, recounted the seizures endured by children who they say could benefit from derivatives of medical marijuana. But opponents of the bill, including representatives of law enforcement agencies, expressed concerns that increased access to any component of marijuana would jeopardize public safety.

“This is a focused bill designed to give people with intractable epilepsy another option when others have failed,” the bill’s author, state Rep. Stephanie Klick, R-Fort Worth, told the committee. “[CBD oils] have no street value, and these families have no other options.”

The representative’s interest in medical marijuana came after she met constituents in her district who have children suffering from Dravet syndrome, a rare form of epilepsy that begins in infancy.

“If CBD weren’t available in the number of states it is available in, we wouldn’t be having this conversation today,” said M. Scott Perry, a pediatric neurologist with Cook Children’s in Fort Worth, testifying in favor of the bill. “The human data on CBD use is very encouraging. What is frustrating is that I can’t prescribe CBD to patients in my state, in Texas.”

[…]

Opponents of the bill expressed concerns over public safety and increased recreational use of marijuana as an unwanted consequence of increasing access to CBD oils. Others worried that the products would be hard to regulate.

“I am concerned about the other children in the household getting ahold of this medication when the parents aren’t around,” said Denton County Sheriff William Travis, speaking on behalf of the Sheriffs’ Association of Texas. “As a father, I would do anything for my child. But putting low amounts of marijuana oil in a child’s body where the brain is not fully developed is not the way.”

The Texas Medical Association has made clear that it does not support legalizing marijuana for medical use. “There is no validated science to support its use in broad treatment,” the association said in a statement earlier this year.

But some medical marijuana advocates are still reluctant to support the proposed Texas Compassionate Use Act, calling it appeasement legislation that would do little to help Texans with epilepsy — and nothing for those with other diseases, such as cancer, that can be treated with medical marijuana.

See here, here, and here for some background. I’m all about the science, but the TMA’s statement seem way too restrictive to me. Surely there are studies showing the efficacy of marijuana for some things. I favor a much broader loosening of marijuana laws than this, so I’m having a hard time understanding why this tiny baby step is so controversial. What are we really afraid of here? Unfair Park has more.

Bill to reduce pot penalties filed

Here we go.

Zonker

A coalition of liberal Democrats and conservative Republicans introduced a proposal Monday to make possession of a small amount of marijuana in Texas a civil infraction, instead of a crime.

House Bill 507, filed by state Rep. Joe Moody, would make those caught with an ounce of pot or less subject only to a $100 fine. Currently, some of those people could face up to six months in jail, a fine of up to to $2,000 and a criminal record.

Moody, D-El Paso, said during a news conference at the Capitol that the change would save thousands of mostly-minority Texans from a lifetime record while saving money through reduced jail costs. Similar moves in other states have shown that the policy would not increase marijuana usage, he said.

“A civil penalty is good government, and good government is always good for Texas,” Moody said.

Ann Lee, executive director of the Republicans Against Marijuana Prohibition, agreed, arguing that reducing penalties for drug violations is in line with the philosophy of conservatives who “stand for freedom.”

Basically, this is one of the things that Grits for Breakfast was proposing to reduce local incarceration costs. The Sheriffs’ Association of Texas will apparently be the main opponent to this, and the general reaction to the bill has been muted, which is about as good as you could hope. It will be very interesting to see who else signs on to this bill or one like it, and if it gets any headway in the chambers. I wouldn’t bet on it passing, but it might get somewhere.

Reducing penalties for pot possession isn’t legalization – I still think that won’t happen this decade, if at all – but it will help keep a lot of people out of jail, and it may help keep them from having their lifetime employment potential wrecked. Still, there is a bigger issue out there, and sooner or later it needs to be acknowledged. Lord knows, there’s plenty of pot being grown around here. Growing it legally here might not only help declutter the jails, it might also help put the drug cartels out of business. At some point, you have to ask what it is we want out of our policies. Grits, BOR, Hair Balls, and Unfair Park have more.

We really should comply with the Prison Rape Elimination Act

It’s the right thing to do, and it’s the law.

During a House County Affairs Committee hearing Monday, local sheriffs said the most problematic provision of the 2003 law is a requirement that minors be housed separately from adult prison and jail populations. Since Texas is one of only 10 states that classifies 17-year-olds as adults in the criminal justice system, sheriffs would be required to build separate facilities or seek new housing options for these offenders.

“Most county jails just aren’t in the position to do that,” said Brazos County Sheriff Chris Kirk, who also represents the Texas Sheriffs Association. He said the mandate makes the law nearly impossible to implement for many counties with small staffs and tight budgets.

The law also prohibits what is known as “cross-gender viewing,” a provision that would bar female guards from supervising male inmates during strip searches, showers and other instances. Since 40 percent of Texas’ guards are women, Perry said that enforcing that provision would mean laying off female staff and hiring more men, a violation of labor laws.

Not coming into compliance brings its own costs and dangers, however. The most immediate is the possible loss of hundreds of thousands of dollars in federal grants. Since 2003, Texas has received more than $3.5 million from the federal government to become PREA-compliant, far more than any other state. If Perry insists on not certifying the state as compliant with the prison rape law, Texas could lose some federal grants, according to a preliminary analysis from the Austin-based think tank Texas Criminal Justice Coalition’s Elizabeth Hennecke.

See here for the background. Seems to me that if we’ve been taking grant money meant to aid compliance with the law, the least we can do is comply with the law. If that means the Lege needs to revisit the issue of classifying 17-year-olds as minors, then so be it. Grits has more.