Could Legalization of Marijuana Be in Texas's Future?

Opinions on pot are changing in the Lone Star State.

It is penalties like these that cannabis users look to circumvent in Texas, and one of the easier ways to do so is by finding a legal alternative. One such substance is synthetic marijuana, which is sold under names like "K2" or "Spice." Those products are created by dusting shredded plant material with a chemical compound meant to mimic the effects of cannabis, and they are available for purchase at head shops or gas stations.

While the two drugs do resemble one another in appearance, the intoxication effects of the chemical compounds in synthetic marijuana could not be further from a cannabis high. Users risk everything from rapid heart rates and elevated blood pressure to life-threatening hallucinations and seizures. A number of the synthetic cannabinoid compounds used to make these products have been listed as Schedule 1 drugs, but with the relative ease of tweaking the compounds to create additional "legal" versions, combating synthetic marijuana is a harrowing task for law enforcement.

The possible dangers posed by the substances users are ingesting also create a harrowing crapshoot. Tinkering with the chemical compounds may allow producers to skirt the definition of "illegal," but doing so also skirts the issue of safety. This became fairly evident during a span of five days in early May, when 120 people overdosed on a synthetic form of marijuana in Texas.

Tim's hydroponic system and the cannabis plants he grows in it are equally impressive.
Tim's hydroponic system and the cannabis plants he grows in it are equally impressive.
Hundreds of participants in Austin joined the annual Worldwide Marijuana March to the Capitol for cannabis reform.
Mike Bagby
Hundreds of participants in Austin joined the annual Worldwide Marijuana March to the Capitol for cannabis reform.

Austin and Dallas were the hardest hit, and emergency rooms were full of patients suffering from the ill effects of a synthetic cannabinoid compound. Their symptoms ranged from abnormal behavior to severe agitation, and many had to be sedated and restrained. Law enforcement officials think that the bad batches of synthetic marijuana may have originated with the same dealer in Austin, but little can be done to curb the sale or distribution of these drugs.

These overdoses are symptoms of a deeper K2 problem in Texas. Synthetic marijuana is dangerous, but it continues to be seen as a safe alternative to illegal drugs like cannabis. It's cheap, easy to distribute and legal to possess. On paper, everything about the drug makes it seem like a viable alternative to pot.

Yet the addictive qualities and the unpredictable high of synthetic marijuana have made combating it difficult. It's not just the typical drug user who's attracted to it, either. At times, it's the very people charged with your safety who are using it.

According to a 2014 University of Washington study, "Addictive Behavior," synthetics are two times more likely to be used by members of the army, since they're legal. In addition to being cheap and legal, synthetic marijuana is nearly undetectable by traditional drug tests. That makes it a viable option for members of groups, like law enforcement and the military, who are drug-tested regularly and are looking to avoid detectible THC residue.

While federal law has been circumvented by way of state policies on cannabis in Colorado and Washington, and even in states like California, where medi-pot (but not recreational pot) is legal, Texas is one of the last states that take that Schedule 1 ranking to heart. Arrests and incarcerations are prevalent.

According to the Texas Department of Public Safety, 73,611 adult arrests were made in 2013 for marijuana possession. Cannabis accounts for 59 percent of all drug arrests in Texas, and it costs us $50,000 a year to incarcerate each person in such cases.

Those are some stiff penalties for a plant, and at Tim's age and in his condition, he often wonders if growing the plant is worth the risk.

Texas makes no allowance for the use of medical marijuana, and possession is treated the same in all cases. A person in possession of two ounces or less in Texas faces 180 days in jail or a $2,000 fine, and it doesn't matter if he or she has a verifiable illness that will benefit from cannabis. When the amount increases to four ounces, it comes with a mandatory minimum sentence of 180 days in jail, no matter the circumstances.

If the push for legalization in Texas continues, there may be a day when pot penalties are no longer a threat.

Until then, Tim will sit in his little clapboard house in south Texas, tending to his indoor grow lab and hoping that he stays under the radar. Change is a-comin', he knows that much; it's just a matter of how and when.

Lucky for him, the cannabinoids in those illegal pot plants have made crossing his fingers a possibility.

angelica.leicht@houstonpress.com

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45 comments
rowantom88
rowantom88

The worst thing that Texas could ever do is legalize that evil weed! Isn't driving in our state dangerous enough without having to worry if the person, driving in front of you is stoned and with his reactions slowed down to begin with he stops suddenly and causes an accident?  Do we want Texas to become a hippie wasteland like Colorado?

TexasForever
TexasForever

Take a listen to Afroman's "Because I got High" then tell me if legalization of pot is a good thing?

jesusworks2003
jesusworks2003

Seeking man's wisdom about marijuana, and reject the knowledge of God. "God's truth about marijuana" jesusworksministry.org

midnightfapper69
midnightfapper69

texans aren't fat and lazy enough already, legalizing mj is a good idea.

cdjtiger
cdjtiger

The entire state is controlled by corrupt  lawyers and corrupt politicians  ...  Lawyers make millions defending  average  citizens POM  charges each year, millions and millions.  Most cases  never  see the inside of a court room.  They are plea bargained out with cash payments to the courts and to the lawyers. It is a HUGE racket of asset forfeiture  the crooked courts and crooked judges and crooked DA’s and crooked  lawyers  CA$H cow.  All these brand new privately owned jails  and  detention  centers  depend on this corrupt crooked  despicable situation of marijuana  probation to keep the jails full and the  CA$H  cow  of asset forfeiture  flowing.  

The only way we will see legalized  hemp and marijuana in Texas is the day when all these corrupt politicians, lawyers, judges and the powerful people who secretly run this state  somehow find a way  to CASH  in a vastly greater way  and amount than they are doing  by  keep hemp and marijuana illegal.  They will never ever  do it for the good of the people, or because it is the RIGHT thing to do.

TruDat
TruDat

Isn't Texas the state that is threatening to send a teen to prison for life for making pot brownies? 


stevennolin
stevennolin

@DonkeyHotay  Sounds like you do not understand prohibition. You either pay the black market tax or the government gets their but.

SeedyWard
SeedyWard

You have no citizen initiative process in Texas. Therefore, all of this is up to politicians. Good luck expecting them to behave like real human beings.

beautypeakwebdesign
beautypeakwebdesign

"Could" Legalization of Marijuana Be in Texas's Future? Clearly a rhetorical question, to which the only reasonable answer - unless you are on Big Pharma produced legal, potentially fatal, prescription meds - is Yes! In spite of 70 years of a war on a plant, and $1 TRILLION dollars in taxpayer spending, people have figured out that a plant that has a lower lethal dose than water should not be illegal. With Texas surrounded by states that will legalize in a few years if they haven't already, and Mexico as a source of low grade but cheap weed, they will have no choice. 


My question is, since TX seems to be so big on individual rights and doing what you want as long as it doesn't hurt anyone else, what is the problem? People are going to smoke the ganja, just like they drank during Prohibition, so why waste police time and taxpayer money fighting the inevitable? On top of that, the Feds are agin it, so shouldn't they be for it just in principle?

richgrise
richgrise

In Kalifornia, the Bill of Rights are numbered, 1,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10. In Texass, the Bil of Rights are numbered 2,2,2,2,2,2,2,2,2,2.


CoolTex
CoolTex

The real gateway drug is alcohol with tobacco second...they used all the negative evidence found with these two drugs and applied their attributes to pot to further their evil cause...reefer madness...

CoolTex
CoolTex

It is time to ship these robber politicians and their minions back to the robber  baron police states whence they came from. No more property taxes, no more $500 traffic tickets, no more murder by cops, no more theft of land from families, and no more drug war bs! We had no real problems before these monkeys took over and their anti pot and anti hippie Illuminati has to go now! Vote out incumbents, religious nuts, and people on agendas that do not put Texas first! Thieves are stealing the state blind while these buffoons chase kids down for smoking a joint behind the barn! Send them all back to Washington and leave us alone. We do not need them anymore!

cpringle
cpringle

trust this hippie idea will be crushed by Texans - thin edge of the wedge here lads - need to start gaoling users - we have the technology - we need more money and prisons to teach these scofflaws the true value of freedom and liberty.  There is no other solution - look at the places where pot is legal - Holland - Kanada and North Korea - countries of crime and filth with no hope.  Let us increase enforcement to rid the state of this deadly scourge! Amerika MUST remain free of these fatal fantasies - we already have some problems with the bevy of legal drugs including the more benign ones like alcohol and tobacco - do we need more?  I think the consensus is no and can be seen from the majority of informed commenters .

dissturbbed
dissturbbed

Great article btw..don't let that fool get on your nerves. Texas is too conservative to legalize this harmless plant. Proof of this is how one Texas resident is facing 5 years to life for hash brownies, only in Texas would this happen. I have been a TDCJ officer for over ten years and you never hear about the people who are sentenced to 10 or more years for cannabis. Ill never forget this one 19 year old inmate who is serving a 30 year sentence for marijuana. I read their travel cards every time they move between units or are released and what almost made me quit is when a two time child molester in the same cell block as that 19 year old was released time served on a 12 year stint. I cant even describe how i felt that day...it is so messed up, only if the public knew.

eminencefrontman
eminencefrontman

I'll know I live in a truly free country when I can legally ride from one coast to the other with a pistol in one pocket and a bag of marijuana in the other.

Pat149
Pat149

As a person living with chronic pain from spinal arthritis and systemic lupus, an autoimmune disorder, I would love the option to try cannabinoids as an alternative or adjunct to opioid medications. Decriminalization is not good enough. Why should a person be fined for possession of a legitimately prescribed medicine for a documented condition? Why should we not welcome a relatively safe alternative to opiates which produce tolerance and require escalating doses? For that matter, there is no legitimate reason to consider possession or use of marijuana illegal while permitting alcohol and tobacco. 

astorm1952
astorm1952

As a Texas Ex-Pat, I read this with interest. Maybe I will be able to return to my home state rather than move to a more enlightened state. As a current resident of the State of Kansas, I have to argue that the bills that were introduced to the Kansas Legislature, who, like Texas, must approve the change, rather than leaving it to a public vote, are now "stuck" in committee by committee chairs who refuse to allow the bills an initial reading. I always laugh when others hold up Kansas as an example, when the reality is that Kansas has had this bill offered 6 times in the past 6 years and it never gets out of committee. Texas will have legalized marijuana (medical or recreational) long before Kansas gets it head out of its collective ass and brings legalization about. The sad thing is that legalization of marijuana and hemp could save this state (and many others). I wish you well in the fight to legalize marijuana in Texas... I'm moving to Colorado.

seanfromVT
seanfromVT

Cannabis is more then an intoxicant and this should be highlighted on our road to freedom. Small farms can grow cannabis (hemp) for many things and will do so better than most other plants out there. We can produce more food per acre, more fiber per acre and more money per acre for small farms then any other crop out there and none of that would require it being sold as an intoxicant to these know nothing fools in government. Cannabis is a gateway but only to introversion and gardening. I have smoked cannabis for nearly 20 years and I have zero shame in that. I love the euphoria of certain strains and the calming properties of others. My one beef with the piece is that it brings up a myth that strains of marijuana are stronger now then they were in the 70's. This just isn't true and you cannot change genetics. One could say that certain strains have been bred to have higher THC levels but the plant itself hasn't changed much only that the quality is more abundant then it was in the 70's.

Downthelaw
Downthelaw

I'm not from Texas but I am all for it for the state or any states at that matter. It is a crying shame that weed is being so hard to legalize. Why are there people who are so weak and brainwashed into thinking that there should be a pot prohibition? It makes me sick. Legalize this wonderful plant and let freedom ring please. It's not weed that is evil, it is the failed prohibition against weed that is evil. Wake up and smell the pot America. FREE THE PLANT!!! 

markjonesisman
markjonesisman

whoever wrote this is an idiot. but that's okay. FREE THE PLANT!

sweetcookies3333
sweetcookies3333

the government of the united states will legalize it before backwards Texas does

sweetcookies3333
sweetcookies3333

the greatest plant in the universe is almost free, LET FREEDOM RING! 13


1000s of my friends and family have grown 30-99 plants for 20 years, thanks for keeping prices high and NORCAL wealthy...#1 crop in cali = $15 Billion Untaxed

"any doctor against marijuana is a doctor of death" - cali secret 420

from 0 states to half the country, from low 20% approval to almost 70%, cali runs this planet by 2 decades, time to tie marijuana to the 2014, 2016 elections, out with the old, in with the new

20 years behind us southern states, sad and scary....nobody denies freedoms like the south, nobody…the top ten incarcerators on the planet are southern states and more blacks are in prison then were slaves before the civil war...even if marijuana reforms did pass the republiCANTS in charge would deny you all your freedoms, centuries of practice...no matter though, we never planned on getting your backwards brethren from day one, half the country already but not one southern state, lol...not 1….the new generations are taking over in the south and they are nothing like their freedom denying parents, let’s ride…Texas will be the very last

Deaths by Alcohol and Tobacco: Millions

Deaths by Prescription Drugs: Quadrupled in last decade

Deaths by Guns: Millions

Deaths by the food we are fed: Millions

Deaths by Marijuana: 0, ever...they are killing my American family while denying freedom

love and freedom forever

AMERICA'S WAR ON DRUGS IS A WAR ON AMERICANS! 33 

johncoby
johncoby

Roll up your sleeves. Roll up your doobies and wait, cuz you will be waiting a hell of a long time for Texas to legalize anything.

jbjb
jbjb

What is a "mad scientist-cum-expert"?

Jimi Austin
Jimi Austin

We cant even have casinos or buy liquor on Sunday, so I seriously doubt it.

kendralegs
kendralegs

@rowantom88 Alcohol is legal. I guarantee alcohol is worse on a person that marijuana. Alcohol intoxication is wayyyyy worse that being high. Especially when you are talking about someone being stoned behind the wheel. I would rather be by someone driving stoned than drunk any day!

smpwast3d
smpwast3d

@TexasForever And you think drinking is better? I'd rather see a bunch of stoners than a bunch of drunks any day!

DonkeyHotay
DonkeyHotay topcommenter

@stevennolin ... only an IDIOT would beg the Government to TAX and REGULATE anything they actually cared about.


Only a bong-sucking imbecile would deliberately conflate "harmless marijuana" with deadly alcohol that harms, maims and kills 100s of THOUSANDS of people every year.



CoolTex
CoolTex

@dissturbbed Someone in the legislature has got it in for pot users and has made astounding changes to pot laws with little or no review. This idea that pot is a different drug than the crystals washed off of pot makes it into a different substance is  just cruel. And the fact that cities are making big bank running (clogging) courts with pot users and running up the tab on them to $10,000 for possession of a small amount of pot is evil! There are even two laws on the books! They can choose to write then a traffic ticket or use the court system. They choose the court system. I say get rid of the two choices and bring it to one choice. And Texas needs to have a petition rule also. Not being allowed to submit a petition for a vote is Nazi politics!

CoolTex
CoolTex

@Pat149  The reason is haters and money...their attitude is screw everyone but us...

therealtrickjames
therealtrickjames

Kansas more enlightened than Texas? You lost me right there...

seanfromVT
seanfromVT

I guess I should back track a little and say that obviously you can have GMO weed, and although there are companies out there doing this, that is not why the quality of cannabis has increased over the years. The quality has increased because bad traits and genetics have been bred out and quality cannabis is much more plentiful then it was in the 70's. Cannabis from Thailand is probably of the exact same quality as it was in the summer of 1975 and has a high concentration of THC. This strain could be crossed with a Colombian or Mexican strain and increase that particular strains levels of THC but the plateau is around 25% and I doubt you will see much higher than that. 

seanfromVT
seanfromVT

@markjonesisman  I thought it was a well written piece and I don't really understand why you think the author is an idiot other than maybe it not being in illustration art form for you to break down crayola style. 

annaleicht
annaleicht

@markjonesisman That idiot would be me. Would you like to tell me why I'm an idiot? I mean, perhaps a bit of constructive criticism would be more a more effective route to take...

cdamouse
cdamouse

@annaleicht  I would not say or call you an idiot. It was well written, but just like may father, you ask a question and it takes an hour of talking, and how he came up to his answer, who else he talked to, how long his research took before getting a yes or no answer. I DON"T CARE!!! A lot of people just want an answer. I wanted to know if it could be legal in Texas. I don't care if a guy is growing it illegally, or why he is, or what made him start in the first place..., none of my business. Or the history of Texas views on pot, and how green the grass was before it became illegal the first time, then how green it became when it became legal on the moon, how bright the sun was shining, the birds in the trees....blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.. I only read about 4 paragraphs before I realized that it was an essay, as apposed to yes it could be by this date, or sorry folks not going to happen because on some governor, or senator voted against it.

DonkeyHotay
DonkeyHotay topcommenter

@stevennolin  utter nonsense.


What is the blackmarket / government tax on Oregano ? ... or Tomatoes ?


If the morons would actually LEGALIZE it -- LIKE TOMATOES -- there would be no black market at all.


The current quagmire in Colorado, Washington and elsewhere with their Massive Government Regulation and Taxation schemes is that BOTH markets now pressure those "licensed" producers -- the blackmarket which can ALWAYS produce a better and cheaper crop, and the greedy insatiable bloodsuckers at the Dept. of Revenue who have saddled marijuana with upwards of 30% in taxes.

 
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