Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Is the GOP dazed and confused?

Who thought we'd see the day when Republicans in Washington would fight for the legalization of marijuana? Oh, the ghost of the Gipper must be spinning in his grave as GOP representatives introduced a bill into Congress that would require the federal government to respect the marijuana laws passed by the states.

The latest Republican to jump aboard the pot train is Texas' own Steve Stockman, a certified wingnut from East Texas.

The question is what gives with the GOP bedding down with the stoners? Is it the libertarian wing of the party stepping out into the limelight and acknowledging that Uncle Sam doesn't need to have his hands in everything? Or is it the traditionalists who look at the decades-long War on Drugs as enormous drain on resources and tax dollars? Or is the the strict constructionists who believe that drug policy is the province of the states and not the federal government?

But how will this play with the true believers in the party - the social conservatives who have declared war on everything from drugs to sex to abortion?

And how is the Republican party going to keep these divergent interests together under their tent? Are we entering a period in which our two traditional parties will be shaken to the core and a new politics will emerge?

And, even more importantly, what will be the impact of this national debate on drug policy in Texas? Can the social conservatives maintain their power and influence in the face of changing demographics in the Lone Star State? Will the libertarians in the party start to move into positions of power?

However this plays out it's time we all took a look at the aftermath of the War on Drugs in Texas. Our jails are overcrowded with non-violent offenders convicted of possessing small amounts of a variety of drugs. It certainly makes more sense to use our jails to house violent offenders and those who have shown a lack of ability to be part of society. Our money could be much better spent by funding community programs aimed to helping folks address their addictions. The collateral consequences of minor drug possession convictions are far too severe for the crimes.

If the legislature doesn't want to take the extreme step of legalizing the possession of some drugs - then maybe they should take the baby step of decriminalizing it. Or, at a minimum, reducing the level of offense.

Meanwhile, here's a peak at what Mr. Stockman might have on his iPod.

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