Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Marijuana Advocates To Descend On Austin For Citizen Lobby Day

Posted By on Tue, Feb 17, 2015 at 7:25 AM

  • Texas Cannabis Report

As marijuana reform activists head to the Texas Capitol Wednesday, those traveling through San Antonio might see an anti-marijuana billboard that may have been erected by a nonprofit organization from Central Texas, according to the Texas Cannabis Report.

The billboard, which is linked to the Brazos Valley Council on Alcohol and Substance Abuse by a phone number, stands in contrast to changing moods about marijuana policy in the Lone Star State. Perhaps the sign is meant for people traveling to Austin tomorrow for the Texas chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws' Citizen Lobby Day.

San Antonio resident Arthur Thomas snapped a picture of the billboard along Highway 281, according to the Texas Cannabis Report.

The phone number on the sign sends callers to the Brazos Valley Council on Alcohol and Substance Abuse, a tax-funded organization, which operates in a seven-county area that includes the Bryan-College Station metropolitan area. 

Progress Texas Deputy Director Phillip Martin said the billboard is misleading.

"There's a serious conversation about marijuana policy reform in Texas, but this billboard is designed to shock, not to educate. There were no marijuana deaths last year, no nationwide increase in teen use of marijuana, and a new federal study finds that marijuana use doesn't increase the risk of car crashes," Martin said.

While it's not clear how many billboards the Brazos Valley Council on Alcohol and Substance Abuse has erected in the Alamo City or Texas, the sign is an old message that is accompanying a new trend: Lone Star State lawmakers and residents publicly talking about pot.

Legislators have filed six bills this year that seek everything from decriminalizing marijuana to medical marijuana research to allowing research institutions to grow hemp.

And on Wednesday, cannabis reform supporters will be in Austin for training and to lobby support from legislators at the Capitol.

"Several hundred folks are signed up for a full-day of training and capitol visits, with buses coming in from NORML chapters in Houston and Dallas in addition to local folks," Martin said, adding that marijuana issues are moving "surprisingly very well" so far this year.

Progress Texas is part of a coalition that includes numerous local, state and national marijuana reform groups that are active in the Lone Star State.

Last week, Progress Texas endorsed a bill filed by an El Paso legislator that would decriminalize one ounce or less of marijuana and remove the threat of jail time by reclassifying the charge as a civil penalty rather than a criminal offense.

According to Progress Texas, $734 million is spent each year on 70,000 marijuana arrests and prosecutions, the majority of which involve young, nonviolent offenders accused of possessing small amounts of pot.

That bill, filed by Joe Moody, a democrat, is accompanied by five other proposed bills, including one filed by a Republican.

Senator Kevin Eltife filed a bill to legalize low levels of THC cannabinoids (that don't produce intoxication) in an effort to treat people with seizure disorders. However, according to Progress Texas, the bill leaves out people who suffer from PTSD and cancer and HIV/AIDS patients. Eltife is the sole Republican to file a bill that would allow the use of marijuana for anything.

The remaining proposed bills would allow accredited research institutions to cultivate hemp and study it for industrial purposes; would allow people prescribed marijuana by a physician to use that as an affirmative defense in court, meaning they could tell a judge that since prescribed by a doctor it isn't illegal; would make possession of less than one ounce a Class C misdemeanor; and would make possession of less than one ounce a Class C misdemeanor. 

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