Letter from Shelby County Attorney Rholes on Marijuana Bill

April 18, 2017 - Letter to the Editor:

In the last session of the Texas Legislature, a bill to totally legalize marijuana moved further in the process than anyone expected.

I want to express my opposition to the legalization of marijuana for recreation purposes.

One need not look any further than a recent study by the AAA Foundation of Traffic Safety that showed after the legalization of marijuana in Washington State, one in six drivers involved in fatal crashes had marijuana in their system, which represents twice the number of such accidents since the legalization.

While some argue that legal limits for amounts of THC, the main active ingredient in marijuana can solve this problem this is not the case.  It is impossible to predict how any certain amount affects various people. Further to quantify a level of marijuana generally requires a blood test, and that requires a warrant and going to a medical facility to take a blood sample. This is very difficult to coordinate and may take hours with the level of the drug decreasing.

I am certainly not advocating stiffer penalties than we have, and would likely support a lowering of those penalties. The effect on public safety simply does not warrant the wholesale legalization of marijuana.

The Texas Legislature has had numerous bills introduced regarding marijuana. At present it appears that the only bill that might pass is the decriminalization of small amounts of marijuana. This would no longer be a crime but would subject a person to civil penalties such as a fine. While this is worthy of consideration, great caution needs to be exercised in the use of civil penalties. So often folks may have a small quantity of marijuana along with other drugs. We should not tie the hands of law enforcement to make arrests when necessary.

Very truly yours,

Gary W Rholes
Shelby County Attorney