Although the Texas legislature does not reconvene until 2019, marijuana policy reform is on its agenda in the interim! Yesterday, Speaker of the House Joe Straus announced “interim changes” that committees will look into between legislative sessions — including by holding hearings and reporting back — and one of them is marijuana policy.
The House Criminal Justice Committee, led by Chairman Joe Moody (D-El Paso), will "study current practices for the enforcement of criminal laws against low-level possession of marijuana” and “examine the use of alternative punishments and improvements to criminal enforcement mechanisms and community supervision."
The subject is familiar to both Chairman Moody and his fellow committee members. Earlier this year, the committee heard testimony on and ultimately passed House Bill 81, Chairman Moody's proposal to replace criminal penalties with a simple citation/ fine for low-level marijuana possession. The bill died after it did not receive a floor vote.
Please stay tuned for opportunities to be part of this important conversation between legislative sessions, during which time an estimated 120,000 Texans will be arrested for marijuana possession.
If you are a Texas resident, please contact your legislators today in support of more sensible marijuana policies for Texas!
A proposal to reduce penalties for marijuana possession in Texas received bipartisan approval from the House Criminal Jurisprudence Committee on Monday and will soon be scheduled for a full vote in the House. The measure passed by a vote of 4-2, receiving support from two Democrats and two Republicans.
HB 81, authored by committee Chairman Joe Moody (D-El Paso) and Rep. Jason Isaac (R-Dripping Springs) with 37 co-authors, 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. Under current Texas law, individuals found in possession of less than two ounces of marijuana can be arrested and given a criminal record, and they face up to six months in jail and a fine of up to $2,000.
“This is a bipartisan proposal that represents a moderate shift in how Texas manages low-level marijuana offenses,” said Heather Fazio, a spokesperson for Texans for Responsible Marijuana Policy in a press release. “The state’s current policy of arresting and jailing people for simple marijuana possession is completely unwarranted. Law enforcement officials’ time and limited resources would be better spent addressing serious crimes."