The changing tide in drug policy has led to an avalanche of bills being introduced in state legislatures to dismantle cannabis prohibition, one piece at a time, whether through decriminalization, allowing medical usage, or fully legalizing the plant. A new bill coming up in a state, while always encouraging, has become something routine and expected.
Earlier this month, however, an extraordinary cannabis-related event happened in Texas, something that has the potential to be a permanent game changer.
A bill to end cannabis prohibition was finally filed in the Lone Star State (HB2165), but what’s exceptional about it is that the bill was sponsored solely by a Republican legislator, Rep. David Simpson (R-Longview), and he presented his case for the bill in terminology that appeals to Republicans and conservatives, groups not typically seen as widely accepting of common sense marijuana reforms.
Shane Trejo, National Campaign Lead for Peace on Our Streets, penned a blog post on it when it happened. At the time, he took note on Rep. Simpson’s succinct statement, “I don’t believe that when God made marijuana he made a mistake that government needs to fix.” A solid, airtight case, it must be, if one follows the spirit and the logical implication of the traditionally Christian conservative creed. And the bill’s abolition of cannabis prohibition would be similarly complete – “remov[ing] every mention of marijuana from the criminal code.”
With Rep. Simpson and perhaps some other conservatives currently serving in branches of state governments who may follow his lead, it can open the door for many values-minded Republicans, who have been some of the most staunch prohibitionists in the past, to join the cannabis revolution. Typically, a small sliver of Republicans explicitly identified as libertarians supported full marijuana legalization, and prominent conservatives critics of prohibition, such as William Buckley, never served in public office. As Texas HB2165 indicates, those dynamics are changing fast.
On the front of legalizing medical use, more and more Republicans in state capitals are also taking initiative. In Tennessee, for the first time, a GOP state senator is submitting such a bill.
Grassroots activism and pressure is playing a huge role in this seismic shift in Republican thought on the marijuana issue. Simpson himself said his constituents “compelled” him to take action to sponsor a bill. This shows activists at local level, like the grassroots crusaders at Peace on Our Streets, can make a difference by organizing effectively and holding their legislators accountable.
Of course, in more Democratic-leaning states, cannabis policy reform remains largely led by more liberal Democrats. This is the case in Massachusetts, for example. Regardless, a state’s partisan leaning is becoming less of an indicator of its willingness to fight back against cannabis prohibition. Marijuana is quickly becoming a bipartisan winner, and smart legislators in parties would be wise to realize that and capitalize upon it.
With more and more Republican lawmakers publicly turning against the drug war and actually taking legislative action, concurrently with some of their colleagues across the aisle, the status quo is officially under siege from all sides and can no longer be provided ideological cover. Do you like what is happening across the country right now? Do you want it to continue? Join our cause, and help us to facilitate this burgeoning movement as it spreads throughout America.