Bipartisan support for reducing pot penalties in the 83rd Texas Legislature

The always excellent Grits for Breakfast gives us some hope for HB 184.

Given that experience, I’ve believed for awhile that, if given the chance, Texas’ Republican majority, at least in the House, would likely support lowering the penalty categories for low-level pot possession. There are so many new members who’ve arrived since then that Grits doesn’t have as good a sense of what a final head count might look like. (State Rep. Debbie Riddle is the only member remaining from that unanimous committee vote.) But with the Texas Association of Business and the Texas Public Policy Foundation providing conservative ideological cover and a different Speaker in power, the 83rd Texas Legislature would be an excellent time to find out.

There’s an interesting wrinkle to this that has lots of businesses supporting lesser penalties. Anti-immigration fervor and the bad economy have driven and deported lots of laborers back to Mexico. Companies trying to hire legal residents to take up the slack are finding that most applicants cannot be hired because they have criminal records, for petty pot possession. Oops.

Not only do US-born workers not necessarily have the same skill sets as the supposedly unskilled workers who “went back to their home countries” when the economy crashed, many Texans can’t even pass the initial screening to get hired, whether because of a criminal history or a dirty urinalysis. Jan Maly, CEO of a specialty contractor in Houston, told NPR that criminal background checks and drug tests disqualified three out of five applicants.


Texas HB 184 and HB 594: Lessen the Harshness of Cannabis Possession Penalties

Two bills were recently introduced in the Texas House that would reduce some of the harshness of Texas cannabis possession law. HB 594 would give patients with really scary diseases like cancer, AIDS, Parkinson’s, and multiple sclerosis an alternative defense in court if they used cannabis on the recommendation of a doctor. Very importantly, it would allow doctors to make an oral or written recommendation stating that cannabis would be of benefit to the patient. Texas doctors fear to talk openly about cannabis, so this alone would be an important step. Denying a very sick person a medication that has even a sliver of a chance of helping them is cruel. This is their last hope being taken away from them. And then to throw them in a crowded prison system where they will be abused, debased, and denied care is just wrong.

HB 184 seeks to reduce possession of one ounce from a Class B to a Class C misdemeanor. That means no jail time instead of the current very harsh sentence of 6 months time. That would take a huge stress off many families. Whether it is a health conscious hard-working dad who likes to manage stress without the perils and hangovers of alcohol or a patient trying to cope with pain, neither belong in jail for 6 months. They don’t belong anywhere near a jail.

Here is the short letter I sent to my representative, Jason Isaac.

Please support HB 184 and HB 594. Many of us Texans know people in California, Colorado, and elsewhere who have benefitted from cannabis. Whether it be to relieve the pain of a traumatic back injury or in order to survive the ordeals of chemotherapy, many of us have friends and family in other states who have shown us what cannabis really is and what it can do for those who are suffering. They are also showing us that it is a safer recreational drug than any other. Let’s makes the penalties less harsh in Texas, especially for those who are fighting for their lives. These patients should be able to try what many have found to be safe and effective without having to worry that they will be sent to prison where they will be denied care and separated from their support structure. We Texans should not have to uproot our families and relocate to be allowed to relieve our pain in peace.

Thank you for your time,

Ryan Chase Boren

Father, Engineer, and Chronic Pain Sufferer

Dripping Springs, TX

WordPress Theme Licensing

The WordPress community is currently having a big debate over whether themes are considered derivative works of WordPress as per the GPL, the license used by WP.  The SFLC has previously declared that they consider the PHP code in WP themes a derivative work.  Other open source CMS software makers, such as Drupal, also consider themes derivative.  Drew Blas has a thoughtful post where he compares WP themes to Linux applications and likens declaring themes as derivative the equivalent of declaring Linux applications as derivative.  I left a few comments on his post noting that a more apt comparison is with Linux Kernel Modules (LKMs) rather than applications running on top of Linux.  Linux applications are more comparable to XML-RPC clients that use WP’s XML-RPC API.  Neither Linux applications nor XML-RPC clients are considered derivative.  LKMs, however, are considered by many Linux developers to be derivative works.  LKMs load directly into the running kernel and have direct access to internal data structures and APIs.  WP themes are the same way.  They load directly into WP and have access to WP internals.  The distinction between the different classes of interactions is important when discussing the letter of the GPL as well as the general spirit in which many authors of open source software regard modules, themes, and plugins that extend their works.

I’ve not followed Linux kernel development closely for the past few years, but as far as I know the debate over LKMs never definitively resolved itself.  A system was put in place where LKMs could declare their license using a MODULE_LICENSE macro.  Licenses that are not GPL-compatible “taint” the kernel.  Many Linux developers will not assist with tainted kernels.  I doubt we would do something similar with WordPress.  Many WP developers already refuse to help with proprietary themes.  Adding some API doesn’t help clarify anything.  Unfortunately, the only thing that would is a lawsuit that goes the distance.

So, where do I stand as one of the primary copyright holders of WordPress?  I’d like to see the PHP parts of themes retain the GPL.  Aside from preserving the spirit of WordPress, respecting the open source ecosystem in which it thrives, and avoiding questionable legal ground, retaining the GPL is practical. As Drew Blas notes, the theme that sparked this debate copies WP code.  Most themes copy WP code.  Unlike the argument that all themes are derivative by nature, there is little debate that themes that copy code should retain the GPL.  Going out of your way to create a theme that does not borrow a single line of code from the WP community is wasted effort.  As attested by several theme makers who license under the GPL, the license has no affect on business. Why generate ill will by using a proprietary license?  What value is there in that?  Unlike LKMs, WP themes do not have to deal with hardware NDAs and DRM, closed source third-party code, or any of the other legal hassles that sometimes force an LKM to be closed source.  Themes live in the world of the fully open source web stack.  Since you are still free to license the CSS and images in your themes as you see fit, challenging the WP community over the license of the PHP code seems like bad business.