Texas Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller published an editorial on Friday calling for improved access to medical marijuana in the state, writing that state leaders should “lead or just get out of the way if we cannot formulate effective cannabis policy for Texas.”

In the letter, which Miller posted to the Texas Department of Agriculture’s official website, the commissioner noted that he advocated for the legalization of hemp in the state and is now responsible for regulating hundreds of hemp businesses. He wrote that he also supported the development of products for medical use including hemp oil, which are improving the lives of Texans everyday when other medicines have failed. Miller added that he would improve access to medical cannabis in the next year. In 2015, the state legalized the use of low-THC cannabis products as a treatment for epilepsy, adding additional qualifying medical conditions in 2019 and 2021.

“It is my goal next year to expand access to the compassionate use of cannabis products in Texas so that every Texan with a medical need has access to these medicines,” Miller wrote.

Cannabis Enforcement Mire in Bias

In his editorial, Miller noted that the history of cannabis prohibition and enforcement in the United States has been riddled with bias and values not consistent with professed American ideals. He also noted that cannabis policy decisions have often been made based on misinformation and emotion rather than reality and that the government should only make things illegal “for a powerful reason or set of facts.”

“As I look back, I believe that cannabis prohibition came from a place of fear, not from medical science or the analysis of social harm. Sadly, the roots of this came from a history of racism, classism, and a large central government with an authoritarian desire to control others. It is as anti-American in its origins as could be imaginable,” Miller wrote. “Today, in the 21st century, this must end. We must start with a new chapter and a new attitude about the use of cannabis – especially when it comes to its potential medicinal benefits.”

Miller, a Republican, noted in his message that 39 states “including politically conservative states such as Oklahoma, Utah and Florida” have passed measures to legalize the medicinal use of cannabis. More than a dozen others “including conservative western states like Arizona, Montana and Alaska, have legalized commercial cannabis sales” for all adults aged 21 and older.

“While I am not sure that Texas is ready to go that far, I have seen firsthand the value of cannabis as medicine to so many Texans,” Miller wrote.

Mixed Messages from Texas Republicans

The Republican leadership in Texas has not expressed a consistent stance on cannabis policy. While campaigning for re-election in January, Governor Greg Abbot said that Texas prisons should be reserved “for dangerous criminals who may harm others.”

“Small possession of marijuana is not the type of violation that we want to stockpile jails with,” said Abbot.

But Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick is one of the state’s most vocal cannabis opponents.

“The Lt. Governor has made it pretty explicitly clear that he is not on board for lessening the state’s drug laws around marijuana,” Joshua Blank, research director for the University of Texas Austin’s Texas Politics Project, said earlier this year. “But I think like any other public figure, if pressure continues to mount, especially within his own party, there’s no reason he can’t change his mind.”

Noting that four out of five Texans support the compassionate use of cannabis, Miller called on Abbot and the state’s lawmakers to increase access to medicinal cannabis during the next legislative session.

“It is time for all of us, including the Governor, members of the Texas Legislature and others to come together and set aside our political differences to have an honest conversation about cannabis: where we have been, where we are going and what role government should properly play,” Miller concluded. “We owe it to our fellow Texans, especially those who are suffering, to lead or just get out of the way if we cannot formulate effective cannabis policy for Texas.”

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