Source:  By Angelica Leicht Wednesday, May 21 2014

As you drive up the long, gravel-lined drive of the small clapboard house in south Texas, not much seems unusual. An old hunting dog suns himself on the porch, and the modest decor of the peeling front porch — a weathered rocker and a swing — drips with small-town charm.

El Paso has become an ally in the legalization movement.

You’d never guess that it’s quite modern inside, though. Just beyond the front door sit not only tidy living quarters, but a sophisticated cannabis grow house presided over by a war veteran whose hands curl like claws most mornings. His knees and back ache, making mobility difficult, especially when it rains. And here in this small town by the water, it rains often.

A cannabis advocate and medical user, Tim, who asked that we not use his real name, has been smoking cannabis daily for a number of years now, and after a while, growing his own marijuana by means of a hydroponic system seemed the logical way to go.

Tim's hydroponic system and the cannabis plants he grows in it are equally impressive.

Tim’s hydroponic system and the cannabis plants he grows in it are equally impressive.
Hundreds of participants in Austin joined the annual Worldwide Marijuana March to the Capitol for cannabis reform.

Mike Bagby
Hundreds of participants in Austin joined the annual Worldwide Marijuana March to the Capitol for cannabis reform.

The contraption he built seems more the brainchild of a mad scientist-cum-expert gardener than of this older country man, but it is his nonetheless. He has crafted it all, from the vent system, powered by two minuscule computer fans, to the plant’s light source, an advanced-technology LED lighting system.

In the ten or so years that Tim has been growing, he’s become quite the indoor gardener. It’s just too risky to grow marijuana outside, and with his apparatus, Tim can control the conditions, genetics and potency of the plant. The lights are set to the flowering and vegetative cycle, and with the careful acuity it takes to garden in here, he sometimes gets two crops from one plant.

What he can’t control are the laws of Texas, the ones that say what he is doing is illegal. It’s against the law to grow marijuana and equally illegal to use it for any purpose — even though cannabinoids, an active component of cannabis sativa, or marijuana, are widely regarded as a pain reliever for rheumatoid arthritis.

Perhaps not for much longer, though, for reasons as much practical as humanitarian.

With the reefer madness currently going on around the nation, a peculiar thing has happened. Texas has started discussing the unthinkable: legalizing marijuana.

Look back a couple of years, and a pro-pot stance in Texas was equal to political death. The only politicians brave enough to broach the subject — guys like Kinky Friedman — were going to be a tough sell to the general public anyway. Today, though, addressing your pot stance is an expected part of the platform.

If the results of recent polls are correct, it seems that Texas residents want what other states have: legalization. A poll conducted by The University of Texas and the Texas Tribune showed that 77 percent of registered voters in Texas believe in some form of legalization. Of that, 28 percent would agree only to medical legalization, while 49 percent are in favor of blanket legalization.

It makes sense that Texans would also set their eyes on the big business of legal reefer. After all, it appears to have worked out well for the states that have repealed prohibitions on marijuana.

Colorado’s and Washington’s pot industries are thriving. The governor of Colorado has predicted that the next fiscal year will bring the state $98 million in cannabis sales and taxes, a figure that is well above projections. While Washington state is still in the early days of its blanket legalization, forecasters predict that the state will see as much as $190 million over a four-year period, starting in 2015.

Small-business growth in both states is booming, and new cannabis-related jobs are popping up daily in everything from bud-tending to pot tourism. The nation’s first “pot editor,” Richard Baca, has been hired by The Denver Post; our sister paper Westword in Denver has had a pot writer for the past five years; and a host of other media outlets now employ cannabis writers and reviewers. It seems pot is big business at the moment, and folks from out of state are flocking to Colorado job fairs in record numbers in hopes of landing a gig in the industry.

Contrary to what was predicted in the days prior to legalization in Colorado, cannabis sales aren’t raising crime rates. In fact, it appears that in the age of legal weed, crime rates in Colorado are falling. Denver has seen a decrease in property crime and violent crime in the three months that marijuana has been legal, which directly contradicts what opponents had said. Perhaps there is indeed something to that old mellow-pothead stereotype, at least in the Centennial State.

The movement of states on medical marijuana has snowballed, and 22 states and Washington, D.C., have now legalized medical marijuana. As of May 15, Minnesota became the 22nd state to legalize medical cannabis, but the agreed-upon legislation, a toned-down version of the original bill, limits Minnesota to much tighter restrictions than other states. While the law now allows medical patients in the state to use the drug in oil, pill or vapor form, use of the actual marijuana plant is not allowed. The legislation also limits the number of manufacturing facilities and dispensaries statewide.

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