The Austin Chronicle

Drug Laws

A Mixed Bag

By Jordan Smith, May 8, 2009, News

It's been a decidedly lame session for drug-law reform, with only a few bright spots. First, Senate Bill 257, by Sen. Craig Estes, R-Wichita Falls, which would ban the sale of the natural hallucinogen Salvia divinorum to minors, appears best poised to make law – a most rational approach to regulating the drug, as opposed to that of crusading salvia foe Rep. Charles "Doc" Anderson, R-Waco, whose bill would ban the drug outright and bar medical researchers from working with it, though research shows it holds promise as a treatment for several diseases, including Alzheimer's. Also creeping closer to passage is SB 188, which would legalize anonymous one-for-one needle exchange. This is the fourth time that Sen. Robert Deuell, R-Greenville, has proposed the measure – and hopefully that will be the charm. Indeed, as it stands, Texas is the only state without some form of legal needle exchange, a proven harm-reduction measure.

Sadly, that's where the hope of progressive reform ends. Austin Rep. Elliott Naishtat's perennial medi-pot bill, House Bill 164, hasn't even been called up for a hearing, and two proposals to downgrade penalties for possession of minor amounts of drugs by Rep. Harold Dutton, D-Houston, also appear primed to stall in the House Criminal Jurisprudence Committee. That also looks to be the fate of a progressive treatment-not-jail bill by Sens. Ellis; John Carona, R-Dallas; and John Whitmire, D-Houston, which would save the state more than $40 million through 2014. This is the second time the measure has been proposed and, most likely, the second time it will die.

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