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Texas Ag Commissioner Voices Support for Medical Pot Access

Texas Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller published an editorial on Friday calling for improved access to medical marijuana in the state, writing that state leaders should “lead or just get out of the way if we cannot formulate effective cannabis policy for Texas.”

In the letter, which Miller posted to the Texas Department of Agriculture’s official website, the commissioner noted that he advocated for the legalization of hemp in the state and is now responsible for regulating hundreds of hemp businesses. Miller wrote that he supported products for medicinal use, including hemp oil. These are making Texasans’ lives better every day when all other medications have failed. Miller said that he plans to increase the availability of medical cannabis within the next year. The state approved the treatment of epilepsy with low-THC cannabis in 2015. In 2019, and 2020, additional medical conditions were added.

“It is my goal next year to expand access to the compassionate use of cannabis products in Texas so that every Texan with a medical need has access to these medicines,” Miller wrote.

Bias is the Cannabis Enforcement Mire

Miller’s editorial noted that US history has been marred by bias and values uncongruent with American ideals. He also noted that cannabis policy decisions have often been made based on misinformation and emotion rather than reality and that the government should only make things illegal “for a powerful reason or set of facts.”

“As I look back, I believe that cannabis prohibition came from a place of fear, not from medical science or the analysis of social harm. Unfortunately, this prohibition was rooted in a long history of racism and classism as well as a central government that wanted to dominate others. It is as anti-American in its origins as could be imaginable,” Miller wrote. “Today, in the 21st century, this must end. We must start with a new chapter and a new attitude about the use of cannabis – especially when it comes to its potential medicinal benefits.”

Miller, a Republican, noted in his message that 39 states “including politically conservative states such as Oklahoma, Utah and Florida” have passed measures to legalize the medicinal use of cannabis. More than a dozen others “including conservative western states like Arizona, Montana and Alaska, have legalized commercial cannabis sales” for all adults aged 21 and older.

“While I am not sure that Texas is ready to go that far, I have seen firsthand the value of cannabis as medicine to so many Texans,” Miller wrote.

Mixed Messages From Texas Republicans

Texas Republican leaders have not taken a uniform stance regarding cannabis policy. While campaigning for re-election in January, Governor Greg Abbot said that Texas prisons should be reserved “for dangerous criminals who may harm others.”

“Small possession of marijuana is not the type of violation that we want to stockpile jails with,” said Abbot.

But Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick is one of the state’s most vocal cannabis opponents.

“The Lt. Governor has made it pretty explicitly clear that he is not on board for lessening the state’s drug laws around marijuana,” Joshua Blank, research director for the University of Texas Austin’s Texas Politics Project, said earlier this year. “But I think like any other public figure, if pressure continues to mount, especially within his own party, there’s no reason he can’t change his mind.”

Noting that four out of five Texans support the compassionate use of cannabis, Miller called on Abbot and the state’s lawmakers to increase access to medicinal cannabis during the next legislative session.

“It is time for all of us, including the Governor, members of the Texas Legislature and others to come together and set aside our political differences to have an honest conversation about cannabis: where we have been, where we are going and what role government should properly play,” Miller concluded. “We owe it to our fellow Texans, especially those who are suffering, to lead or just get out of the way if we cannot formulate effective cannabis policy for Texas.”