Although we would like to think cannabis legalization is a non-partisan issue, it is no secret that conservative Christians are one of the biggest opponents to cannabis. Along with Rock ‘n’ Roll and dancing on a Saturday night, cannabis has gotten a bad rap in the Bible Belt; and that reputation is reflected in the South’s harsh cannabis laws.
However, in a surprise move, one Texas legislator is leading the fight for cannabis reform in the Lone Star State and he’s doing it with a Bible firmly clutched in hand.
Calling cannabis a “gift from God,” Republican state Rep. David Simpson has introduced a bill which would radically change cannabis law in Texas. Unlike other cannabis reform bills, HB 2165 will not legalize cannabis as much as it will repeal the laws prohibiting cannabis.
The bill starts off with the line, “The following provisions are repealed,” and then proceeds to list numerous state cannabis laws. Under Simpson’s vision of legalization, cannabis would be a regulated crop like tomatoes or corn, with none of the extensive regulatory framework that other states, like Colorado, have.
“I don’t believe that when God made marijuana he made a mistake that government needs to fix,” said Simpson in a Texas Tribune op-ed. “Scripture stresses respect for our neighbor’s liberty and conscience.” Simpson then goes on to quote Romans and Proverbs to back up his point.
Despite glowing endorsements for Simpson, supposedly from the Heavenly Father, chances are few and far between that this bill will pass. It would take a herculean feat to pass a cannabis reform bill of any kind in Texas, much less one that leaves the market wholly unregulated.
As drug policy expert Gary Hale told the Houston Chronicle, “A blanket decriminalization of marijuana and classification as a vegetable is not going to happen.” He goes on to say that legalization will happen one day, but that it is going to take baby steps. The Drug War was not made in a day, and likewise it will not end in a day either.
Now, individually, Simpson’s bill is not going to change drug policy, but it does start an interesting conversation. This conversation is not happening in the statehouse, but in the homes and churches of Texas’ conservative constituency. Simpson’s biblically-based argument may not persuade his fellow legislators, but it could convince evangelicals who have been reluctant to embrace cannabis reform.
KHouston has reported that there are currently seven other cannabis reform bills making their way through the Texas legislature in addition to Simpson’s bill. Maybe HB 2165 won’t pass, but that does not mean the others won’t. Perhaps, with a little luck, Simpson will rally the evangelicals in support of cannabis reform.