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State candidate touts cannabis law reform

The Battalion

Published: Monday, April 9, 2012

Updated: Wednesday, July 25, 2012 21:07

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Jade Bedell — THE BATTALION

Clif Deuvall discusses cannabis law reform with students on Friday.

A candidate for the Texas House of Representatives told a group of students that he gets high — and likes it.

Clif Deuvall, independent candidate running for District 56 in Waco, visited A&M Friday to speak with members of the Aggie Cannabis Reform and Education Society about the issues of voting, education cuts and the legalization of marijuana.

A self-proclaimed cannabis smoker of more than 47 years, the founder of the Waco chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, NORML, divulged his story of post-traumatic stress disorder after being released from the Air Force and losing two sons to cancer. After being prescribed Methadone, an additive narcotic, Deuvall said he turned to medical cannabis as a way to relieve stress.

“We cannot regulate morality,” said Deuvall, who sported a golden cannabis leaf, the symbol for NORML, on the tip of his purple collar. “The government says it’s OK to drink, to smoke cigarettes and take prescription pills and what happens? More people die from legal substances every year than illegal ones. We’ve become a pharmaceutical country, and many people don’t know how to change it.”

Today, Deuvall travels across the state, speaking to various college campuses — including Rice University, Baylor University and the University of Texas — about changing state laws, voting rights and legal issues regarding marijuana reform.

He said there is vast potential for Texas A&M — a university with a large agriculture program — to receive funding for studies on the plant. This research, he said, can have a positive effect on the agricultural economy, especially for local farmers who are hurting for government subsidies.

“I look at this campus as being part of a growing industry,” Deuvall said. “This campus has reform written all over it. Think of the grants that this campus could get to try to help produce an industrial product and raw material that we import from other countries. I look at A&M as a focal point in the industrial hemp movement as far as creating industry.”

Mostafa Selim, president of the Aggie Cannibus Reform and Education Society and junior university studies major, said he started the organization in the fall after realizing there was a growing need to educate students about cannabis reform.

“Our main purpose is to create a community of like-minded individuals who are interested in the issue of cannabis legalization. What we aim to do is make some local change either at Texas A&M, or in College Station,” Selim said.

To-date, 16 states and the District of Columbia have legalized medical cannabis, including Arizona, California and Colorado. Delaware was the most recent to join the club in 2011. Medical cannabis is not legal in Texas.

Under the Controlled Substances Act of 1972, the federal government classifies the plant with its psychoactive ingredient, TCH, as a Schedule 1 drug due to its potential for abuse, lack of safety and lack of medical application.

Many activists in the reform movement, including Deuvall and Selim, believe the Controlled Substances Act is outdated and the decision to legalize the plant for medical use should be left up to state courts.

“I’d like to live in a state where the government does not tell you alcohol is fine but marijuana is not,” Selim said. “We need to start working from the bottom up, starting with the grassroots and elect small-level representatives, because it’s never going to happen on the federal level.”

Luis Gasca, senior aerospace engineering major, said he doesn’t smoke marijuana but supports the legalization movement because he is against the social stigma associated with the drug. Gasca said he hopes that through activism, more representatives like Deuvall will support the cause instead of shying away from the underlying reason for drug prohibition: money.

“Many people don’t like to talk about the issue because they feel ashamed or they have to hide things,” Gasca said. “Large amounts of money are spent on prohibition and it was nice to see a representative who is willing to speak up about that. If more people like him — in that type of position — start talking about some of these issues, more major players will start speaking up and at least we get the ball rolling.”

Because of low voter turnout in 2010, Deuvall encouraged audience members — regardless of their opinion of the cannabis movement — to study current issues that affect their communities, vote for change and reach out to state representatives.

“This is your nation. This is your time,” Deuvall said. “States laws are not preempted by federal acts. It’s hard for us to change federal minds, but it’s easy for us to change who’s in office.”  

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