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Legalizing Marijuana

A Texas legislator has proposed a bill that would legalize all use of marijuana for the state because he believes it should not be regulated by the government.

“Numerous constituents had been seeking legal access to cannabis products to help treat seizures, PTSD, and cancer,” said State Representative David Simpson. “In seeking to serve the constituents of Texas, I thought the best way to give access to marijuana is to repeal all offenses for possessing, cultivating and using marijuana. Based on this content, this gets government out of the way of people who want to responsibly use a plant that God made; that is good.

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Simpson said this plant can be abused like other substances such a coffee, sugar, or alcohol, but government should not get in the way of people caring for their own health.

“I do not advocate for the irresponsible use of any substance, whether that be alcohol, coffee, marijuana or pharmaceutical drugs,” said Simpson, “but that does not mean we need to criminalize and regulate a plant.”

This bill would not include any age regulations for the use of marijuana. Simpson said he thinks, “The best regulatory scheme for minors are parents.”

Simpson said he chose to write his bill the way he did because legalizing all use of marijuana would not create a bureaucracy or a registry. Other bills that have been proposed pertaining to the legalization of marijuana have required a registry, which involves more government.

Only four states have legalized marijuana for recreational use. In Alaska and soon in Oregon, adults can possess up to an ounce. Colorado and Washington passed similar laws in 2012.

Marijuana is known to have some helpful qualities for medical purposes, but it could also have negative effects on those who use it.

Will Heise, MD, family medicine resident BS Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, a physician with UT Health Northeast, said there is not enough scientific evidence to fully answer all of the questions about the medical effects of marijuana use.

“The brain is the area of greatest research, as the brain has the highest concentration of cannabinoid receptors in the body,” said Dr. Heise.

Dr. Heise said that the brains of young adults are not mature yet since the frontal lobe doesn’t finish maturing until approximately 21 years of age. Because of this, marijuana has a more significant impact on young people and causes more long term or permanent effects on the brain.

“So far the results are that habitual use of marijuana by young adults is very bad for brain health, but not as bad for adults whose brains are finished maturing,” said Dr. Heise.

The way marijuana acts on the lungs is much the same as tobacco, said Dr. Heise. Long-term use has a high likelihood of causing lung problems.

“How much you must smoke to cause COPD, cancer or pneumonia is unknown and is currently under investigation,” said Dr. Heise.

The role of marijuana or derived medications in therapy is a point of ongoing research. Dr. Heise said the medical community does realize there is some potential for medical marijuana, but no physician would say that marijuana is a wonder drug or miracle drug in any way.

Other bills have been proposed on the subject of marijuana this session, but Simpson’s bill is the only one that would repeal all offenses related to marijuana.

State Representative Joe Moody proposed a bill that would change the possession of marijuana from a criminal offense to a civil penalty.

“Right now the personal use of marijuana is a class B misdemeanor. That means the person who has it can be arrested or placed in jail,” said Moody’s spokesperson. “What our bill does is change that to a civil penalty, a fine basically. You can’t be arrested for it, and it doesn’t create a criminal history.”

Moody’s spokesperson said this bill would improve the current system but would try to do so in a realistic way, politically.

This bill would still keep marijuana offenses illegal, but they would not be a crime.

Both of these bills, if passed, would go into effect Sept. 1. 2015.

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