Texas' short legislative session has begun, and over a dozen bills have already been filed to change the state's marijuana policies. A lot of progress has been made since the last time the Texas Legislature was in session, and now is the time to reach out to your lawmakers.
For added impact, talk to your lawmakers in person. Our allies at Texans for Responsible Marijuana Policy will be holding a lobby day on Thursday, February 7. The day will start with a legislative advocacy training and then teams will break off to reach out to their specific lawmakers. The two big priorities for this session are decriminalizing possession of small amounts of marijuana and expanding access to medical marijuana.
So please, do your best to make it to Austin next Thursday, and be sure bring friends and family. Whether or not you can make it, please use our action form to send a quick email to ask your lawmakers to replace arrests and jail time with a modest fine for marijuana possession. Or, you can ask them to support comprehensive medical cannabis legislation.
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.
Houston District Attorney Candidates Move to Reduce Threat of Arrest for Possession of Small Amounts of Marijuana
As reported by the Houston Chronicle, a move to replace criminal penalties with civil penalties for the possession of small amounts of marijuana surfaced Wednesday as a major issue in the contentious race for Houston’s Harris County District Attorney, with both candidates claiming ownership of the idea.
However, the details, purposes, and primary goal of the plan, claimed by both candidates, are fundamentally different.
Republican incumbent candidate, Devon Anderson, said that starting Monday, non-violent first offenders in possession of less than two ounces of marijuana will be able to avoid prosecution by performing eight hours of community service or by participating in a drug awareness class.
“We are targeting the people we believe are self-correcting and will be ‘scared straight’ by being handcuffed and transported. Our goal is to keep these individuals from entering the revolving door of the criminal justice system,” stated Anderson.
Anderson’s recent announcement, a month away from November’s election, sparked political discourse from his challenger, Democrat Kim Ogg, who in August announced her own idea for handling misdemeanor marijuana possession. Her plan, if elected, is to have police officers fine misdemeanor marijuana suspects, even repeat offenders, and require them to spend two days cleaning up around Houston’s bayous. Her program is said to save an average of $10 million a year in jail, court, and prosecution costs by diverting around 12,000 offenders annually.