On Friday, Dallas — Texas’ third largest city — implemented a policy that instructs police officers to issue citations and a summons to appear in court, rather than arresting those found in possession of marijuana. This new policy will spare people an initial trip to jail, which is a step in the right direction. However, individuals still face all the same criminal penalties, including up to six months in jail, up to $2,000 in fines, and a lasting criminal record.
In Texas, a criminal record carries the following collateral consequences:
-Hindered access to employment
-Diminished educational opportunities
-Impeded housing options
-Jeopardized parental rights
-Suspended drivers license (six months)
-Obstructed right to self defense/ license to carry (five years)
To see meaningful changes to marijuana laws in Texas, we must change the unreasonable statewide policies that allow for such harsh penalties.
If you are a Texas resident, please contact your legislators now in support of more reasonable penalties for marijuana possession.
Texas Advocates Release TV Ad Featuring Active Duty Police Officer and Victim of Marijuana Prohibition
A television ad in support of a bill to reduce marijuana penalties in Texas will begin airing Friday, just days before the state House of Representatives is expected to vote on the measure. It can be viewed here.
The 30-second spot features Nick Novello, an active duty police officer and 23-year veteran of the Dallas Police Department, and Heather Jackson of Houston, an ovarian cancer survivor who was arrested for possession of a small amount of marijuana in El Paso in 2007.
“Arresting people for marijuana possession does not make our communities any safer,” Novello says in the ad. “It’s a terrible waste of police resources.”
Jackson notes that she was found with less than one gram of marijuana and spent a total of four days in jail. She was initially jailed for two days. She was forced to spend an additional two days in jail because she violated the terms of her probation by traveling from El Paso to Houston for treatment at MD Anderson Cancer Center.
“It has affected so many different things in my life,” Jackson says in the ad. She now has a criminal record that has prevented her from getting a teaching job.
The ad concludes by urging viewers to tell their legislators to support HB 81, a bipartisan bill that would remove the threat of arrest, jail time, and a criminal record for possession of up to one ounce of marijuana and replace them with a civil fine of up to $250. A fourth offense would result in a misdemeanor punishable by only a fine. The measure passed out of the House Criminal Jurisprudence Committee last month and is expected to receive a full vote in the House next week.
The ad is scheduled to air through Monday in Austin and through the weekend in Dallas-Fort Worth and Houston on CNN, Fox News Channel, and MSNBC.
Over the weekend in Dallas, the Republican Party of Texas convened for their state convention where, among other business, delegates adopted a platform to express their position on various political issues.
With support from 78% of delegates, the following is now the official position of the Texas GOP: "We call upon the Texas Legislature to improve the 2015 Compassionate Use Act to allow doctors to determine the appropriate use of cannabis to prescribed patients."
Thanks to the work of dedicated Republican delegates who support marijuana law reform, the Texas GOP is now officially in support of medical marijuana!
Of course, this confirms what we already knew: Marijuana law reform is not a partisan issue. Texans of all political persuasions acknowledge that cannabis is medicine and support the reform of outdated policies. This move by Republican delegates affirms the integrity of the doctor/patient relationship by declaring that patients should have safe and legal access to medical cannabis if their doctors recommend it, consistent with another section of the platform which states, "Health care decisions...should be between a patient and health care professional and should be protected from government intrusion."
While this new position does not change current state law, it does demonstrate that even the most conservative Texans agree: Cannabis should be accessible to patients.