General

Texas: Marijuana policy voter guide released, early voting begins October 22

Our allies at Texans for Responsible Marijuana Policy released a voter guide for the upcoming election. Early voting starts today, so please check it out, spread the word, and head to the polls!

Texans for Responsible Marijuana Policy’s coalition partners surveyed state and federal candidates and provided their unedited responses. They also included voting records from the last two legislative sessions for state-level incumbents.

Find out where your candidates stand.

Early Voting: October 22 – November 2, 2018
Election Day: November 6, 2018

For more information on where, how, and when to vote, visit VoteTexas.Gov.

Unfortunately, Texas doesn’t allow voters to collect petitions to put initiatives on the ballot. Only state lawmakers can initiate changes to the state’s marijuana policies. Who gets elected in November will be key to deciding when and if Texas enacts a medical cannabis law and stops criminalizing cannabis consumers.

So, please get educated and get voting!

Many thanks to Heather Fazio of Texans for Responsible Marijuana Policy, Texas NORML, and everyone else who worked on the voter guide!

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Prohibition

Texas Marijuana Penalty Reduction Bill Advances

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."

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Prohibition

Marijuana Policy Reform is Heating Up in Texas

As Texas lawmakers prepare for the state’s next legislative session, marijuana policy reform advocates are already pushing for the introduction of several bills that would drastically improve current policies.

According to the San Antonio Current:

[caption id="attachment_8364" align="alignright" width="196"] Harold Dutton[/caption]

On December 2, Houston Representative Harold Dutton, D-142, filed a bill seeking to reduce certain penalties for marijuana possession.

As explained by the Marijuana Policy Project’s Texas Political Director, Heather Fazio, who briefly looked at a copy of the bill (H.B. 414), it would classify a conviction for possession of one ounce or less of marijuana to a Class C Misdemeanor instead of a Class B. However, if a person is convicted three times it would be bumped back to a Class B Misdemeanor.

Moreover, while the bill would allow for cite-and-release, a suspect may also be arrested. If convicted, the fine would be $500.

There are downsides to the bill though, Fazio said. She explained that arrest is traumatizing and may result in negative consequences regarding family and employment. She also thinks the $500 fine is rather excessive. Furthermore, there is the criminal record that comes with a conviction, which for a small-time marijuana charge, results in unnecessary harm to education, employment, and housing.

 We are proposing an alternative. [MPP emphasis added] Our bill will make the possession of 1 oz. or less a civil penalty, removing the opportunity for arrest, jail time, and a criminal record. The fine would cap at $100,” Fazio stated, adding the El Paso Representative Joe Moody, a former prosecutor who serves on the House Criminal Jurisprudence Committee, would introduce the bill in approximately two weeks.

The Marijuana Policy Project and our allies are working to introduce a variety of marijuana policy reform legislation in Texas over the next few years. With all the current excitement and national interest in marijuana policy reform, hopefully Texas lawmakers will join in implementing more sensible marijuana laws when the legislative session convenes.

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General||Prohibition

MPP to Introduce Three New Marijuana Reform Bills in Texas

As part of the Marijuana Policy Project’s multi-year legislative campaign in Texas, we are developing bill proposals to address decriminalization, as well as allowing marijuana to be used for medical reasons and eventually regulating it similarly to alcohol for adults.

[caption id="attachment_8221" align="alignright" width="230"] Heather Fazio[/caption]

According to Heather Fazio, Texas Political Director for the Marijuana Policy Project, the group will be pre-filing the three bills this November, in anticipation of the 84th Texas Legislative Session, starting in January.

“We are working with a diverse coalition to introduce a civil penalty bill which [would] make small possession punishable by a simple fine, rather than a criminal charge,” said Fazio.

“This means no opportunity for jail time, and none of the collateral sanctions which come along with a criminal drug arrest. These collateral sanctions include limited access to resources for education, housing, employment, etc. It will also help to break down the stigma which goes along with being arrested and jailed for the possession of this plant.”

“We will [also] be introducing a bill to create a legal market for marijuana, similar to alcohol, for responsible adults who are 21 and over,” says Fazio.

The three bills cite Texans’ support for reduced marijuana penalties, the passage of medical marijuana laws, and taxing and regulating marijuana similarly to alcohol.

Moreover, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration and RAND Corporation data, 1,267,200 Texans already use marijuana each month, with the average user consuming 100 grams per year. Should Texas regulate and tax marijuana, with a tax of $50 per ounce implemented, the Lone Star State would stand to make between $150,971,063 and $264,199,294 in tax revenue annually.

Read the full Houston Press article for more information on the proposed marijuana policy changes in Texas, as well as an overview of the three bills.

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