By Jahna Lacey
A town hall forum debating the legalization of marijuana in Texas is scheduled 6:30-8 p.m. Thursday in the large auditorium of Brooks City-Base Campus, 2601 Louis Bauer Dr.
Communication specialist Jillian Reddish said the university is not sponsoring or hosting the event but assisted WOAI with technological needs and “providing a venue for the free discussion of ideas.”
Mandi Johnston Mendoza, assistant news director for WOAI, said the forum will benefit San Antonio by providing information and perspective on the legalization issue.
“The space is perfect for our needs with 200 seats,” Mendoza said.
Texas Governor Rick Perry and other conservatives in the southern states are weighing whether to decriminalize marijuana. Perry called to decriminalize small amounts of the substance earlier this year.
According to the Marijuana Policy Project website, a commissioned poll showed that 61 percent of people in Texas favored penalty reductions while 58 percent favor access of marijuana for medical use. Another 58 percent support a tax on marijuana, according to poll results.
Thursday’s forum is an opportunity for local citizens to discuss their views on the issue.
“There is a growing number of states legalizing marijuana,” Mendoza said. “Some legalize it for medical use and others legalize it for other uses such as recreational use.”
Marijuana is currently illegal in Texas. Possession of marijuana of two ounces or less can result in a six-month or higher jail sentence and a $2,000 fine.
“Because the Marijuana Policy Project is planning to hire lobbyists from Texas, WOAI wants to make sure any issue is discussed before it goes to the Legislature,” Mendoza said. “This gives the community the chance to ask questions before it goes to lawmakers.”
Since the states of Washington and Colorado recently legalized marijuana, more states are considering the option.
A panel of four will debate the issue during the forum Thursday with two representing a pro-legalization stance and two against.
Pro-legalization panelists include Dr. William Holcomb Jr., Austin drug addiction psychiatrist, and Rob Kampia, co-founder of and executive director of the Marijuana Policy Project.
Anti-legalization panelists include Dr. Jennifer Sharpe Potter, assistant dean for research and student programs at the University of Texas Health and Science Center, and Robert Ashford, president of the Eagle Peer Recovery collegiate program at the University of North Texas.
Potter currently conducts clinical trials, including the Achieving Cannabis Cessation Evaluation N-Acetylcysteine, Treatment Integrated for Pain and Opioid Dependence and the Mindful Mobile Health Intervention.
Physician Mark Hyman will conclude the forum by answering questions posed by the audience and incoming questions collected from social media sites.
For more information, call Mendoza at 210-476-1023.