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As decriminalization efforts continue; cannabis discussion begins in Texas

February 12, 2014

A field of cannabis. Legalization of hemp and marijuana could mean a big boom for the U.S. economy. - Courtesy photo

 

Since the bursting of the housing bubble in 2006 and the following failures of many major U.S. financial institutions, Americans have been frantic in trying to find some way to save the suffering economy. Only now are we beginning to realize that the answer may’ve been right in front of us the entire time.

 

The recent ground-breaking changes in U.S. cannabis laws have made this a watershed moment in our nation’s history. While still federally regarded as an illicit substance, cannabis has been decriminalized for medical and/or recreational use in 20 states, as well as the District of Columbia, our nation’s capitol.

 

With cannabis reform a reality for so many states, it was only a matter of time before the issue became a very real topic in Texas.

 

Though generally regarded as a “Red State”, meaning a state that votes in predominately conservative manner, Texas is also home to many major “liberal” metropolises.  Cities such as Houston, Dallas, as well as the state capitol of Austin are all generally considered to be “liberal” areas. It is partially because of this that many Texans see the possibility of legalized cannabis becoming a reality in their state.

 

However, it’s not just hippies and left-wingers that are pushing for cannabis reform. Rick Perry, Governor of Texas and member of the Republican Party, has admitted that former President Nixon’s “War on Drugs” may’ve been a bit misguided. Perry stated at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, “Did we fight the war on drugs correctly every day? No. Has the war on terror been fought correctly every day? No. The point is that after 40 years of the war on drugs, I can’t change what happened in the past. What I can do as the governor of the second largest state in the nation is to implement policies that start us toward a decriminalization and keeps people from going to prison and destroying their lives”.

 

More and more, citizens of the United States are beginning to accept that cannabis may not be the devil plant they were once led to believe it was. Aside from the medical benefits reaped from the tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD) found in certain variations of the plant, recreational usage of marijuana has been shown to cause less physical and mental impairment to users than that of users of alcohol, as well as lacking the negative effects on the liver that comes from alcohol consumption (though the act of smoking does still damage the lungs).

 

In addition, hemp production is also halted by cannabis’ current legal status. Hemp, a material with seemingly endless industrial uses, is also considered a controlled substance for its familial relation to marijuana, and is still federally illegal to grow in the U.S. despite containing a near immeasurable amount of the psychoactive ingredients present in marijuana. Hemp’s variety of uses and its threat to the American timber industry is thought to be one of the main influences behind cannabis’ initial prohibition in the 1930’s.

 

Perhaps the greatest benefit cannabis can give to the U.S. is a much-needed economic boost. Colorado’s first recreational marijuana shops, which opened on January 1st, took in 5 million dollars worth of sales in their first week alone. The state projects tax revenue from cannabis to top $70 million by the end of 2014. Colorado is only one of two states with full legalization of cannabis, and these tax numbers come from sales of recreational marijuana, and do not include any potential income from hemp production. In other words, these figures are just the tip of the iceberg. To a country whose national debt is currently $17 trillion and climbing, this could be just the jumpstart the U.S. economy has been waiting for.

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