Sheriff leads fight against weed legalization

Sheriff leads fight against weed legalization

Sheriff leads fight against weed legalization
October 02
00:15 2014

Dalton LaFerney / Senior Staff Writer

The Sheriff’s Association of Texas has supported Denton County Sheriff Will Travis’ opposition to the legalization of marijuana in Texas by signing a proposal that may influence lawmakers in the upcoming legislative session.

The proposal, which includes a two-page resolution and 26-page dissertation, was written by Travis and Sandi Brackeen, public information officer for the Denton County Sheriff’s Office. Every sheriff in the state signed it in June.

“Considering legalization of marijuana in Texas is reckless and irresponsible,” the resolution reads. “Texas doesn’t follow, it leads, and the marijuana lobby knows that we don’t want it.”

The resolution and dissertation were written in opposition of Texas House Bill 184, an act that would decriminalize marijuana. Additionally, it stands against Texas House Bill 594, which would legalize medicinal marijuana.

“The Texas Sheriff’s Association needed a voice on this issue, so I volunteered,” said Travis, a former DEA agent. “The youth don’t have a voice, so we are their voice. That gives me extra incentive to do a great job to make sure none of those laws pass.”

Colorado 

Travis included statics on Colorado’s 2012 legalization from the High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas (HIDTA) program.

It provided Colorado’s estimated revenue for recreational marijuana sales, which predicted a $35 million profit in 2013-14 and $118 million in revenue in 2014-15.

The dissertation does not include the state’s actual revenue from recreational use. But the complete HIDTA report, a source of evidence for the dissertation, does include such revenue statistics.

Colorado has a 2.9 percent sales tax on any tangible good, not limited to marijuana. An additional 10 percent sales tax was added by the state’s legislature. A 15 percent excise tax was slapped on marijuana, but only imposed on retailers when they buy the marijuana.

Of the excise tax revenue, $40 million goes to the Public School Capital Construction Assistance Fund. So when the consumer purchases the drug, a 12.9 percent tax applies, plus any local taxes.

Mental health and youth

The foremost premise within the proposal is marijuana’s negative affects on minors’ physical and mental health.

James Quinn, professor in the department of disability and addictions rehabilitation, said there is merit in concern about youth consuming or being near the drug.

“The memory issues alone I would be concerned with from a collegiate standpoint,” he said. “The younger you start smoking, the sooner you begin losing memory, because the brain is not fully developed until about age 30.”

The pathways in the brain, such as the link between memory and language, can be damaged when the drug’s chemicals are introduced to an underdeveloped brain, Quinn said.

There are 60 chemicals unique to the cannabis plant, including 10 cannabinoids. The two most widely known cannabinoids are THC and cannabidol (CBD).

“When you breed real high THC and you eliminate CBD, you are upping the chance that the user will suffer a psychotic break,” Quinn said.

Travis said THC potency is much higher today than in the past. According to the HIDTA research, THC potency has risen from an average of 3.96 percent in 1995 to an average of 12.33 percent in 2013.

“Hippies would get shot today if they tried selling the stuff that they smoked back in the ’60s,” Quinn said.

There is no standardization to test marijuana because of the numerous ways to grow it, Quinn said, The drug’s mysteries are another reason why Travis and the other sheriffs reject its legalization.

“We are not going to go ahead and create medical marijuana just to say we did,” Travis said. “That would be unethical of us as adults.”

Medicinal uses

The dissertation denounces the smoking of marijuana as a means of medicinal treatment for health problems such as cancer and glaucoma. The sheriff analyzed the health problems and provides research for each.

It’s largely concluded within the resolution that smoking marijuana is of no medical benefit. 

“The sheriff has a point,” Quinn said. “Inhaling smoke is bad for the human body, but he’s ignoring that many medical patients vape it because of those health concerns.”

The proposal claims there are health benefits associated with some chemicals within cannabis, such as swallowing the pill form of CBD to treat nausea. However Quinn points out that those cannabis-based pills can conflict with patients’ nausea.

Travis said some chemical benefits from cannabis can be found in other legal drugs and that marijuana is not an end-all solution.

Violent crimes and pot

Another prime argument in the resolution was the relationship between violent crimes and marijuana usage.

“The dangers of illegal drugs, such as marijuana, and the threat to public safety caused by their use are well-documented in terms of highway safety, criminal activity,” the resolution reads.

But Quinn said that aspect of the resolution is untrue.

“He has his facts wrong,” he said. “The police only see the bad side of people. I’m far more concerned with alcohol and crime than I am about marijuana.”

Brackeen said the sheriff’s department made approximately 800 marijuana-related arrests last year.

Ed Reynolds, deputy chief of police for UNT Police Department, said from Sept. 1, 2013 to Sept. 24, 2014, UNT Police made 127 arrests for possession of marijuana.

Denton Police Department could not provide marijuana arrest records in time for publication.

“We can decriminalize marijuana,” said political science senior Daniel Moran, who is the Democrat running for Texas House District 63. “Marijuana is no more harmless than alcohol. Legalization should occur. We should be reducing sentences for small amounts of marijuana [possession].”

Travis’ work was sent out to all the state’s legislators and will be considered as they move forward on the issue. He doesn’t see Texas going green anytime soon.

“It won’t happen here,” he said. “Definitely not this go ‘round.”

Featured Image: Sheriff William Travis. Photo courtesy of Travis

About Author

Dalton LaFerney

Dalton LaFerney

Dalton is the editor of the Daily.

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