There is currently a lot of talk in Texas about how to turn the state blue, or how to keep it red. The Marijuana Policy Project (MPP) however, is more interested in how to turn the state green.
Heather Fazio, the newly appointed Political Director for MPP, spoke with Breitbart Texas about their groups’ efforts to reform marijuana policy in the state. Fazio said, “There are currently 22 states in the country who have legalized medical marijuana and 19 that have decriminalized it for personal use, it’s time for Texas to join them.”
“There were some efforts back in 2005 to legalize in Texas, but the climate wasn’t right for it. Now we think things have changed, and we are ready to try again.” said Fazio, a 14 year resident of Austin. “Our overarching goal is to create a safe and legal market for marijuana in Texas, where it is sold and taxed like alcohol.”
To do this, MPP is putting forth two bills to the Texas legislature. One to legalize medical marijuana, the second the decriminalize marijuana for personal possession, under 1 oz.
“Right now, 75% of marijuana arrests are people under 30” says Fazio, “the decriminalization bill takes small, harmless marijuana possession, and takes it out of the criminal sphere. It means that petty drug charges will no longer bog down our courts, and won’t stick young people with a criminal record which will keep them from getting into school and getting jobs in the future.”
Fazio argues that being caught with a small amount of marijuana, “is a life sentence.” This is because when someone gets caught with marijuana, they not only face prison sentences and fines, but also a legal stigma that follows them around for the rest of their lives. For some, this ‘life sentence’ is more literal than for others. Breitbart Texas recently reported on a 19-year-old Texas athlete who is currently facing up to 99 years in prison for pot brownies.
MPP reports that in 2011, over 70,000 arrests were made for marijuana related offenses, 98% of which were for possession. “Decriminalization would not only save Texas money, it would bring in money. Colorado in just one quarter, brought in 12.6 million dollars alone from marijuana taxes,” says Fazio.
Contrary to popular belief, the MPP argues that legalization will actually help keep America’s borders safer. Fazio claims, “What we’re doing now with the black market is empowering the cartels. We’re handing the market over to criminals who are willing to use violence, instead of to entrepreneurs who want to make people’s lives better.”
While this may seem unintuitive to some, a recent expose done by The Washington Post confirms what groups like the MPP are saying about legalization. Washington Post reporters spoke to marijuana growers in the small Mexican town of Sinaloa. One of them told them that he and his sons no longer grow marijuana.
“It’s not worth it anymore…I wish Americans would stop with this legalization.” says Rodrigo Silla, a lifelong cannabis farmer.
The Post also claims that American legalization has dropped the wholesale price of marijuana from $100 per kilo, to only $25.
In the end, for people like Fazio, decriminalization comes down to an issue of individual liberty. “Prohibition is a big government institution, it flies in the face of personal freedom and small government, two things that Texas stands for.” MPP and Fazio encourages Texans who are uncomfortable with the idea of marijuana decriminalization to consider that, “By supporting drug prohibition, they are supporting big government intruding in our lives.”
Follow Patrick Kane on Twitter @PatVKane.