— By LARRY M. JONES
From what I’ve read, the Texas Legislature finally passed a watered-down bill requiring some applicants for unemployment benefits to pass a drug screening. However, according to the same reports, Democrats were able to block this testing from being also applied to welfare recipients. This has been an ongoing battle for several months although, for the life of me, I cannot see the problem.
Throughout my career in the Navy, I was randomly selected, along with everyone else from seaman recruit to admiral, to undergo random urinalysis testing for drug use. Since I never used drugs, I never saw a problem with this requirement. If I’m going to be humming along at 30,000 feet going several hundred miles per hour, I’d prefer to be fairly certain that a pot smoker or crackhead hadn’t performed the latest repairs on my trusty flying machine.
Last Sunday, my son and granddaughter dropped in for a little Father’s Day visit, and somehow we got onto the subject of marijuana laws and how many states were decriminalizing its possession and use. He has a slightly different perspective on the subject than me because he is a probation officer for the Tarrant County Judicial District, where a lion’s share of his workload is drug related. He sees recreational marijuana use as being far less of a problem to society than alcohol abuse. While I hate to admit it, he’s probably right. Still, here in Texas for the time being, alcohol is legal and marijuana is not.
I did a little research on the subject, and I found that about 21 percent of all inmates currently incarcerated in state or local facilities are there for drug-related offenses. 56 percent of all federal inmates are there because of drugs. God only knows how many of them were convicted of other offenses perpetrated to support a drug habit.
According to other statistics I gleaned from the Internet, currently there are 24 states that have legalized use of marijuana – roughly half for medical use, and the rest have decriminalized marijuana possession within certain limits. From day one, I’ve never seen the problem of medical marijuana use. If doctors can prescribe opiates and other powerful narcotics, why differentiate with marijuana? Perhaps the time has come for Texas and the rest of the country to legalize, regulate and tax marijuana alongside alcohol.
While I’ve never tried the stuff, I’ve never seen the degree of impairment from its use that I’ve witnessed with alcohol abusers. We have the ability to test for use of either if inappropriate behavior is apparent and may have contributed to accidents or incidents. Almost a hundred years ago we banned alcohol, and that didn’t work out too well. We have banned marijuana for decades, and yet America’s War on Drugs has been a stunning defeat.
Make no mistake, I do not condone marijuana use and I see nothing positive about its use, but in light of our overall failed drug policies, perhaps it’s time to consider other options.
In regard to drug testing to qualify for benefits, if a worker has to submit to testing to be hired, how in God’s name can welfare recipients be exempt from this requirement? I think a bunch of Texas legislators must be smoking something funny.
Larry M. Jones is a retired Navy commander and aviator who raises cattle and hay in the Brock/Lazy Bend part of Parker County.