A group of pro-marijuana activists are hoping to build a coalition of residents who support the legalization of medicinal marijuana in the state of Texas.
Medcan University, a for-profit business seeking to expand the medical marijuana industry, is conducting periodic seminars throughout the state of Texas that address the politics, laws, and science behind the medical marijuana movement.
One such seminar occurred Sunday morning in a restaurant in downtown Fort Worth and featured Dallas police Officer Nick Novello, The Dallas Morning News reports.
"The war on drugs today has left carnage," Novello said. "I don't have all the answers for the war on drugs. [But] gangs and drug cartel control all narcotics by default."
Novello, a 29-year veteran of the Dallas Police Department, has been patrolling East Dallas neighborhoods since 2007. He is also a member of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP), an organization composed of current and former members of law enforcement who oppose the current drug policies of the United States.
"By continuing to fight the so-called 'War on Drugs', the US government has worsened these problems of society instead of alleviating them," LEAP's website states. "A system of regulation and control of these substances (by the government, replacing the current system of control by the black market) would be a less harmful, less costly, more ethical and more effective public policy."
During the seminar, Novello said that although he does not support the use of drugs such as marijuana, the criminal penalties for drug use needlessly ruin the lives of otherwise law-abiding citizens, adding that those arrested for drug possession often never escape the "criminal" label.
"We can survive addiction, but not conviction," Novello said.
Although the neighboring state of Arizona has approved a measure to legalize medical marijuana, making it the 15th state to do so, there is little momentum in Texas to support such a measure.
State Rep. Elliott Naishtat, a liberal Democrat from Austin told The Dallas Morning News in late October that passing a law that would allow for the production and distribution of marijuana for medical purposes "wouldn't have a snowball's chance" of passing in the State's legislature.
Instead of pushing for outright legalization, Naishtat is seeking a new law to provide defense against prosecuting a chronically ill person.
"I sincerely believe I'm right on this issue and I will continue to introduce it," Naishtat said.