Conservative TX paper points finger at lieutenant gov over pot reform: 'Reflects the iron hand of' Dan Patrick

Conservative TX paper points finger at lieutenant gov over pot reform: 'Reflects the iron hand of' Dan Patrick
Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick in 2016 (Gage Skidmore)

The Fort Worth Star-Telegram editorial board on Saturday called out Texas Lieutenant Gov. Dan Patrick over the state’s “stand still” on marijuana reform, noting the Senate’s failure to act on overwhelming “bipartisan public sentiment” in favor of “sensible” reform measures “reflects the iron hand of” Patrick.

“Texas has been doing marijuana reform the right way, moving slowly and evaluating the consequences while other states have flown ahead to full legalization,” the editorial board argued. “But there’s moving slowly and there’s not moving at all. This year, the Legislature — the Senate, specifically — unfortunately chose to stand still.”

The McClatchy-owned paper noted that the Senate has failed to hold “as much as a single committee hearing” on two “sensible measures” that passed “the House with strong majorities,” including one bill which would make penalties for possession of one ounce or less of recreational weed “akin to a traffic ticket.”

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The conservative board argued that some states are “starting to see consequences” after “[rushing] into full legalization,” and instead described the Texas House-approved measure as “a better approach” that would “prevent needless arrests that clog our jails.” That House bill would still make simple possession a Class C misdemeanor, “punishable by up to a $500 fine.”

Another bill, championed by Fort Worth Rep. Stephanie Klick, "a reliably conservative Republican who trained as a nurse and lets research guide her legislation,” would establish a “compassionate use” program for chronic pain.

“Many Texans who need relief from chronic pain turn to opioids, and we’ve seen the dangers of addiction and abuse of pills,” the board wrote. “Apparently Patrick thinks those consequences are preferable to letting doctors prescribe cannabis gummies.”

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Per the board:

These bills, like others before them, never got as much as a single committee hearing in Patrick’s Senate. It’s uncertain whether a majority of senators oppose them. There’s just not much room to buck the three-term lieutenant governor, especially among his fellow Republicans.

The editorial board pointed to “poll after poll” that show Texans “want decriminalization,” and also insisted that the Legislature’s failure to act leaves a blind spot “on an important regulatory need” regarding the “difference between hemp and weed.”

“A lack of testing and enforcement have resulted in the ready availability of intoxicating products at corner gas stations,” the board argued. “Teenagers, of course, have figured this out, and the state needs a robust consumer protection action.”

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The paper called on Fort Worth and Tarrant County cities to take action on their own to implement much-needed marijuana reforms.

“After all, we’ve got at least another two years to wait for the Legislature — for the lieutenant governor, actually — to plot a more sensible pot policy for Texas,” the board wrote.

Read the full editorial at the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.

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