Recap from MATV’s 2014 Texas Drug Policy Conference
Posted on: January 21, 2014
At the Mothers Against Teen Violence 2014 Texas Drug Policy Conference this weekend, speakers from a wide variety of backgrounds and areas of expertise converged in Dallas to discuss the failed war on drugs. DFW NORML board member Larry Talley and Texas NORML Executive Director Cheyanne Weldon spoke at the conference, and NORML volunteers staffed an informational table at the event. Presenters spoke on a wide variety of topics including the myths and misinformation fueling prohibition, how the drug war enables powerful drug cartels and horrific for-profit prisons, and efforts to pass harm reduction and marijuana legalization legislation in Texas.
The theme of this year’s event was “Building a Movement,” and many diverse groups and interests were represented. Law enforcement was present both as event attendees and as speakers. The movement to end drug prohibition has made great strides in Texas and across the country, and the momentum is still growing.
A common theme among conference presenters was the necessity of voters to contact their elected officials and ask them to change the laws. Keynote speaker and neuroscientist Dr. Carl Hart said that people have to put pressure on politicians. Dallas County Chair of the Democratic Party Darlene Ewing suggested writing your representative a personal handwritten note, or better yet, meeting with them in person to discuss legalization at their offices or at town hall meetings.
Lobbyist Noelle Davis, who has been working with the Texas legislature for the past decade, reported that the 2013 83rd legislative session had been the most successful yet for activists. At a committee hearing for the medical marijuana bill, patients gave hours of compelling testimony and lawmakers engaged and asked relevant questions. Legislators are finally beginning to take cannabis seriously, and now is the time to form relationships with them and educate them.
Cheyanne Weldon discussed the importance of reaching out to people outside of the marijuana legalization movement for support. There are many people who are not necessarily attending NORML meetings but who support what we’re fighting for. We simply have to extend our reach and talk to more people than ever to get the message out. The majority of Texans support legalization. We just have to show them how to participate in the movement and how they can help change laws.
Joy Strickland, the founder of MATV, discussed the progress that was made in the last legislative session with harm reduction legislation. MATV created two pieces of legislation, a Good Samaritan bill which would protect someone from prosecution who called 911 in an overdose situation, and a syringe exchange bill. The syringe exchange bill did make it to the house and senate for a vote, and lost by only a single vote. The groundbreaking work of Ms. Strickland and MATV shows that we are making progress with our elected officials, and legislation related to prohibition and drug laws is making strides in Texas.
DFW NORML was honored to attend and participate in the conference. We look forward to continue working with MATV and other anti-prohibition groups to legalize marijuana in this state.
Photos from the Texas Drug Policy Conference provided by Shaun McAlister of iamshaun.com: