Just because the members of the West Texas Movement for Marijuana Law Reform talk about marijuana, doesn’t mean they want to smoke all day.
Instead, Christopher Valenzuela, the founding member of the group, said he and the about 10 other members are simply looking for ways to educate Odessa and West Texas about the several other uses for the plant.
“We’re not just a bunch of kids trying to spoke pot,” Valenzuela said. “To me, the main thing for the group is about education. We just want to show to the people that demonize it, there’s so much potential to use it to make our society better.”
With another group formed on the University of Texas of the Permian Basin campus, Valenzuela said group members have met at Starbucks, 2016 E. 42nd St., during the weekends with signs that express their opinions on current marijuana laws. Valenzuela said the group chose the location mainly because of the high traffic.
Citing the use of paper, clothing and medicine, Valenzuela said the group looks to have an open debate with law enforcement officials and elected officials about changing the state’s laws on cannabis. Ultimately, the group’s leader hopes to see changes in the state’s law.
“It’s going to take some time,” Valenzuela said. “We want to be able to become cooperative with our law enforcement so we can work together for a better understanding of how law enforcement handles cannabis users.”
Enacted on Sept. 1, 2007, HB 2391, or cite and release law, states a peace officer can issue a citation for a misdemeanor and let the person go on the grounds the recipient appears before a judge on their assigned time and date. Should the person not show up, a warrant can be issued for the arrest, the bill stated.
Ector County Judge Susan Redford said the law leaves it up to the individual law enforcement offices and the bill is not something the commissioners’ court votes on. Ector County Sheriff Mark Donaldson said his deputies do use cite and release.
“I don’t think it lessens anything,” Donaldson said about the law. “But I don’t have any facts and figures to back it up.”
Until any type of reform is passed, Valenzuela said he and his group would continue to spread the message that just because people use or advocate the use of marijuana, they are not bad people.
“We’re trying to show the people in town that we’re normal people,” he said. “We pay our bills, and just we prefer this than getting drunk on the weekends. The way I see it, I prefer a plant over alcohol.”