Saturday, May 09, 2009

Drug Laws

A mixed bag

(I've been meaning to post about the status of the drug policy bills pending in the Texas Legislature. The Austin Chronicle's Jordan Smith has made it easy.)

It's been a decidedly lame session for drug-law reform, with only a few bright spots. First, Senate Bill 257, by Sen. Craig Estes, R-Wichita Falls, which would ban the sale of the natural hallucinogen Salvia divinorum to minors, appears best poised to make law – a most rational approach to regulating the drug, as opposed to that of crusading salvia foe Rep. Charles "Doc" Anderson, R-Waco, whose bill would ban the drug outright and bar medical researchers from working with it, though research shows it holds promise as a treatment for several diseases, including Alzheimer's. Also creeping closer to passage is SB 188, which would legalize anonymous one-for-one needle exchange. This is the fourth time that Sen. Robert Deuell, R-Greenville, has proposed the measure – and hopefully that will be the charm. Indeed, as it stands, Texas is the only state without some form of legal needle exchange, a proven harm-reduction measure.

Sadly, that's where the hope of progressive reform ends. Austin Rep. Elliott Naishtat's perennial medi-pot bill, House Bill 164, hasn't even been called up for a hearing, and two proposals to downgrade penalties for possession of minor amounts of drugs by Rep. Harold Dutton, D-Houston, also appear primed to stall in the House Criminal Jurisprudence Committee. That also looks to be the fate of a progressive treatment-not-jail bill by Sens. Ellis; John Carona, R-Dallas; and John Whitmire, D-Houston, which would save the state more than $40 million through 2014. This is the second time the measure has been proposed and, most likely, the second time it will die.


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