Research

Texas House Committee Tasked With Studying Marijuana Laws

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!

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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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Medical Marijuana||Prohibition

Texas Legislative Sessions Begins With Efforts to Fix Medical Marijuana Law and Decriminalize Possession

Jan 10, 2017 Heather Fazio

decriminalization, Joe Moody, Jose MenŽndez, Texas, TX

The Texas Legislature convened for the 2017 session today. Rep. Joe Moody reintroduced legislation that would replace Texas’ harsh criminal penalties for marijuana possession with a simple citation. His proposal would eliminate the threat of arrest, jail time, and — most importantly — the lifelong consequences of a criminal conviction.

Meanwhile, Sen. Jose Menendez is leading the charge to fix Texas’ inadequate medical marijuana law. Effective medical marijuana programs have been created in 28 states, but Texas instead has an unreasonably restrictive law that leaves most patients behind and includes a fatal flaw.

If you are a Texas resident, please let your lawmakers know you want the state to fix the broken Compassionate Use Act Gov. Abbott signed into law in 2015, and to reduce the penalties for possession.

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Prohibition

Bills to Reduce Marijuana Penalties Introduced in Texas

Nov. 14 was the first day bills could be filed in Texas for the 2017 legislative session, and Rep. Joe Moody (D-El Paso) didn’t waste any time. He introduced HB 81, which would replace possible arrests and jail time with a civil fine for low-level possession of marijuana. As a former prosecutor and the current Vice Chairman of the Criminal Jurisprudence Committee, Rep. Moody is a champion of sensible marijuana policy because he has seen how current laws are failing our communities.

[caption id="attachment_10160" align="alignright" width="150"]moody Rep. Joe Moody[/caption]

Sen. Jose Rodríguez, also of El Paso, introduced a Senate companion bill, SB 170.
The bill, which is co-sponsored by Rep. Jason Isaac (R-Dripping Springs), would make possession of one ounce or less of marijuana a non-criminal offense punishable by a fine of $250. Under current law, possession of two ounces or less is a Class A misdemeanor punishable by up to a $2,000 fine and 180 days in jail.
In addition to preventing arrests and traumatic incarceration, reducing possession to a civil penalty would stop marking marijuana consumers for life with a devastating criminal record that can derail dreams. Collateral consequences from a conviction include limiting access to higher education, employability, and occupational licensing — plus, it results in the automatic suspension of a person's drivers license. These penalties are harsh and unreasonable.

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Prohibition

Bill to Reduce Penalties for Possession Filed in Texas

[caption id="attachment_8411" align="alignright" width="250"]6112384 Rep. Joe Moody[/caption]

At a press conference held today and hosted by Texans for Responsible Marijuana Policy, State Representative Joe Moody announced the details of his new bill to stop branding Texans as criminals for possessing up to an ounce of marijuana.  

Many members of our coalition, including Texas District Court Judge John Delaney, the ACLU of Texas, Republicans Against Marijuana Prohibition, and the Marijuana Policy Project, joined him for the big announcement.

Our current marijuana policy in Texas just isn’t working,” Rep. Moody said. “We need a new approach that allows us to more effectively utilize our limited criminal justice resources. This legislation is a much-needed step in the right direction.”

More than 60% of Texas voters support limiting the punishment for possession of up to one ounce of marijuana to a fine of $100 with no possibility of jail time, according to a September 2013 poll conducted by Public Policy Polling.

Nineteen states and the District of Columbia have removed the threat of jail time for possession of small amounts of marijuana.

Now is the time to contact your state legislators. They cannot represent you if they don’t know about your support for this bill! If you are a Texas resident, click here to send an email now. Then, spread the news to your friends and family, so that they, too, can speak out to support more humane and sensible marijuana policies.

 

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