Prohibition

Texas legislative committee passes marijuana decriminalization

If you live in Texas, ask your state lawmakers to support decriminalizing marijuana.

A bill to stop arresting and jailing marijuana consumers in Texas cleared an important hurdle yesterday, when it passed the House Criminal Jurisprudence Committee. But it has a long way to go before it becomes law.

Ask your state lawmakers to support decriminalizing marijuana in Texas.

Currently, possession of two ounces or less is a misdemeanor that carries a penalty of a fine of up to $2,000 and up to 180 days in jail. HB 63 would make the penalty for possessing one ounce or less a fine of $250. This would apply to an individual's first two offenses; after the second offense, it would be a class C misdemeanor, which carries a fine with no jail time.

Texas is punishing adults for using a substance that is safer than alcohol and it's costing the state millions in tax dollars and ruining thousands of Texans' lives. In 2017 alone, there were more than 64,000 arrests for marijuana possession in Texas.

Please ask your lawmakers to support decriminalizing marijuana today. Together, we can bring sensible marijuana policies to Texas.

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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.

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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

Texas Committee Approves Bill to Reduce Marijuana Penalties

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.

Heather Fazio, spokesperson for Texans for Responsible Marijuana Policy, released the following statement:

“This is a bipartisan proposal that represents a moderate shift in how Texas manages low-level marijuana offenses. 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.

No one should be saddled with a lifelong criminal record simply for possessing a substance that is less harmful than alcohol,” Fazio said. “Texans overwhelmingly agree that the punishment for simple marijuana possession should be reduced to a simple fine.”

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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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