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Kinky Friedman talks border security, legalized pot

By Glenn Evans
Feb. 19, 2014 at 11 p.m.


Democrat Richard "Kinky" Friedman on Wednesday brought his hopes to lead the Texas Agriculture Commission to Longview, singing a conservative song on the tax, border security and education finance benefits of legalized pot.

"The only questions I am asking are if it's good for Texas and if it will cripple and hurt the Mexican drug cartels," Friedman said during a phone interview before arriving in the city where the Hill Country musician was scheduled for a concert.

"I'm not a dope smoker," he said, adding that he makes an exception when in the company of his friend, fellow troubadour and Farm Aid founder Willie Nelson.

Like Nelson, Friedman aspires to help farmers in challenging times, in part by providing a new cash crop option. The recently passed federal farm bill provides grant funds Friedman said could be channeled to pilot pot projects.

"Hemp, it puts nutrients in the soil, it doesn't need pesticides," he said. "Farmers and ranchers get it, and law enforcement does. ... Pesticides have a powerful lobby, and they will give millions of dollars to someone that is running against me, running against legalization of pot and hemp."

The prohibition on marijuana, and its ropier sister, hemp, produced 70,000 arrests of nonviolent offenders in 2010, Friedman said, at a cost of $250 million. Latino and black people were seven times more likely arrested than white people, he added.

Tax revenue from marijuana, made legal through public referendum or legislation, would be a boon to a struggling school finance system, he added.

"You've got criminal justice, you've got education," he said. "You've got immigration and the border, you've got taxes. And I haven't even mentioned (having) no medicinal marijuana at all, in a state that has the finest cancer hospital in the world - M.D. Anderson - is disgraceful."

Friedman also said he hopes to encourage desalinization to boost water production in a growing state.

"El Paso has the largest inland desalinization plant in the world," he said. "This cleanses the brackish waters down there and makes it totally useable."

He also said water conservation is beginning to take root in local and state water policies.

"I think we are waking up to it," Friedman said. "Something made us wake up, because the drought is real."

Friedman faces Jim Hogan and Hugh Asa Fitzsimmons III in the March 4 Democratic primary. The Democratic candidate will face the winner of a GOP primary field that includes former Longview state Rep. Tommy Merritt.

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