Granderson: After Biden’s pardon, is Texas ready to rethink marijuana?
The former vice president’s decision to bestow a presidential pardon on former Texas Gov. Rick Perry helped to launch a national conversation about the role of racial justice in modern America.
But in Austin, a local pot advocate is starting to question whether the pardon was a step too far.
In 2005, Texas voters approved medical marijuana by a 77% to 23% margin. But a federal law still bars medical marijuana patients from using it. So a group of former patients — many of them black — filed suit, arguing that permitting medical marijuana for one group of patients would open the floodgates to the use of legal marijuana for all.
In 2008, a Houston jury found unanimously that the state’s ban on medical marijuana violated the 14th Amendment. In 2012, a federal district court rejected the state’s appeal, concluding that “Texas’s longstanding, racially-motivated prohibition of medical marijuana is unconstitutional.”
“The whole state was galvanized by the [Texas] case,” says Jodie Christian, a former patient who is now president of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws. “It was the first time this issue had been litigated at the state and regional levels and nationally.”
Brent Wilkes, who was part of the lawsuit but doesn’t want to speak on record for fear of being sued by the state, agrees that the public interest in overturning the ban makes Perry’s pardon a timely one.
“The problem is that the public interest is not always a priority,” says Wilkes, a lawyer who is based in Los Angeles. “It’s all a political calculation. And I don’t think the people who went to the polls and voted for the pardon thought that they were ending the debate.”
Wilkes, who was never a patient who used medical marijuana to treat pain or other problems, says he has met several patients who describe similar experiences and feel the same way he does about whether legalization is the best approach to treating chronic pain and other conditions.
“The question the medical community and advocates are asking is, ‘Why not change the law at the federal level?'” he says.
The case in Texas has only reinforced Wilkes’ belief that it’s time for the national conversation about marijuana to shift and, he