Saturday, October 5, 2013

The Range of Legalization

The Range of Legalization

I originally wrote this for a group working to modernize the marijuana laws in Texas.  But as I was writing it, I realized that most of it is general enough to apply anywhere.  The main thrust is that a reformed law will have a broad and beneficial effect on many aspects of society.  So, ignore the Texas-specific parts and use those parts that apply to your state.


Selling Marijuana to Texas

After reading Grieder’s “Hot, Wide, Cheap, and Right” that I recommended last week, I started thinking about how we try to sell marijuana reform to both the Lege and fellow Texans.  And I have concluded that we need to change the main thrust of our argument.

Most of the time, we have stressed the negative: “Quit putting people in jail for marijuana”; “don’t come between a patient and a doctor.”  We can’t E-lim-i-nate the negative altogether, but we can soft=tone it while we AC-cent-u-ate the Positive:  We can talk about the good marijuana can do for Texas.  We can switch to the positive by talking about six things: commerce, agriculture, energy, medicine, technology, and higher education.

COMMERCE:  The growth in commerce will be astonishing.  Even the smallest town will have at least one retailer, who rents or owns a store and may have employees.  Packagers and distributors will supply them; and they in turn will need truckers, label printers, and container makers.  Those providing marijuana edibles need commercial kitchens, cooks, and display areas.  Hemp clothing, food and cosmetics will continue to be sold, but they will probably be made from locally grown hemp.  A glance at the display next to the cash register in any convenience store will show how the market for accessories will thrive

AGRICULTURE: Texas has always been known for its vigorous agricultural sector.  Marijuana can expand agriculture in three ways.  Marijuana can be a field crop, much like the vegetables grown in many parts of the state, or it can be a specialty product grown in greenhouses.  Hemp, with its stalks, is a fiber crop to challenge cotton or wool, or it can be grown for its seeds and oil.  For many hemp products, the change will be that they are made from locally grown hemp instead of imported.  Most of these farmers will hire laborers.  The farm supply industry will sell them seeds, fertilizer, and pesticides; greenhouse growers will also need high-end environmental control and hydroponic systems.  Farm machinery manufacturers will quickly provide equipment for hemp cultivation and harvest, and marijuana harvesting gear will soon follow.

ENERGY:  The energy business has been the keystone of Texas industry for a century.  Recently it has moved past sole reliance on oil to add natural gas and, more recently, renewables like ethanol and wind power.  Hemp can provide renewable fuel.  Prototypes have been demonstrated both for biodiesel from hempseed oil and for cellulosic ethanol from hemp stems and leads.  Both of these need significant development before emerging as competitors for petroleum fuels, but the established energy companies have the knowledge, technology, and resources to do that development and have the marketing outlets and incentives to do so.  The close geographical and transportation ties between these industries and the envisioned Texas hemp cultivation should prove synergistic.

MEDICINE:  Although therapeutic use of marijuana has become well established over the last forty years, federal prohibition has virtually squelched basic research.  Many fundamental questions of both physiology and pharmacology remain unanswered.  Texas contains some of the world’s leading medical research institutions.  The Houston Medical Center, including M. D. Anderson, is a good example of the resources available to pursue this research and to advance treatment if Prohibition is ended.

TECHNOLOGY:  Most of the developments discussed above call for technological improvements on the way to market.  Agriculture needs tools for tillage, harvest, and product processing.  Energy needs process and chemical engineering to move from prototype to commercial production and distribution.  Medical research has barely begun.  These technologies – agriculture, fuel and chemical processing, medical technology, and transportation – are those in which Texas already excels.  Legalizing marijuana would play into Texas strengths and allow it to build a dominant position in a new industry.

HIGHER EDUCATION:  In the same way, Texas higher education is well placed to advance this new industry.  Texas A&M and Texas Tech are at the fore in agricultural science and technology.  Many Texas universities have outstanding programs in energy and process engineering and in medical science and engineering.  They, too, could build on their already proven abilities.

This brief outline shows ways in which legalizing marijuana could broadly benefit all Texans: that it is not just coddling stoners or excusing junk medicine.  However, my perspective, while broad, lacks depth.  I invite those with more knowledge than me (not a very high standard) in agriculture, economics, engineering, and business to expand these sketchy overviews and provide some substance.

If each of my little paragraphs could be expanded to a few pages of solid detail, he result would be a pamphlet capable of convincing large numbers of people.  A press run of a thousand would supply every elected official, state and federal, every university president, and the major state news outlets.  Placement on the Web would make it available to millions.


Is this a project we can do?  Who will join me on this?

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