Texas House committee approves reduced penalties for marijuana possession

Ask your representative to support HB 507.

Dear Supporter:

This evening, the House Committee on Criminal Jurisprudence approved HB 507, a bill that removes the threat of arrest, jail time, and a criminal record for possession of small amounts of marijuana — replacing them with a civil fine of up to $250. The measure will now advance to the Calendars Committee to be scheduled for a vote by the Texas House. 

Call now to ask your representative to support HB 507.

Under current Texas law, individuals found with less than two ounces of marijuana can be arrested, jailed for up to six months, and fined up to $2,000. But Texans want to see this changed!

More than 60% of Texas voters support limiting the punishment for possession of up to one ounce of marijuana to a fine, according to a September 2013 Public Policy Polling survey.

“Texas cannot afford to continue criminalizing tens of thousands of citizens for marijuana possession each year,” said Rep. Joe Moody, who sponsors HB 507. “We need to start taking a more level-headed approach. It is neither fair nor prudent to arrest people, jail them, and give them criminal records for such a low-level, nonviolent offense.”

According to FBI data, there were 72,150 arrests or citations issued for marijuana-related offenses in Texas in 2012, 97% of which were for simple possession. That same year, nearly 90% of all burglaries, including home invasions, and 88% of all motor vehicle thefts went unsolved.

Thank you for your continued support and activism! Please share this with like-minded friends or family.

Sincerely,

hfazio sig 2

Heather Fazio headshot

Heather Fazio
Texas Political Director
Marijuana Policy Project 

Texas House committee approves bill to make marijuana legal for adults

TX David Simpson

Dear Supporter:

Last night, the Texas House of Representatives Criminal Jurisprudence Committee approved a bill that would end marijuana prohibition in the state by a vote of 5-2. HB 2165, introduced in March by Rep. David Simpson (R-Longview), would strike references to marijuana offenses from Texas statutes, resulting in marijuana being treated similarly to other legal crops.

Nearly three out of five Texas voters (58%) support making marijuana legal for adults and regulating it like alcohol, according to a statewide survey conducted by Public Policy Polling in September 2013.

Four states have adopted laws that regulate and tax marijuana similarly to alcohol. Two of them, Colorado and Washington, have established regulated systems of marijuana cultivation and sales. Alaska and Oregon are in the process of implementing similar systems.

Texas Senate approves flawed CBD bill

Please tell your representative to make SB 339 workable

Dear Supporter:

Yesterday, the Texas Senate voted 26-5 in support of SB 339, which is intended to allow qualifying patients with intractable seizures to access medical cannabis rich in cannabidiol (CBD) and very low in THC. The bill now advances to the House of Representatives for further consideration. Unfortunately SB 339 falls short of its intended goal and would not help Texans unless it is amended.

Take a moment to send an email message to your representative to support amending SB 339 so that seriously ill patients can get relief. 

In its current form, the bill requires doctors to “prescribe” marijuana, which exposes them to federal criminal sanctions. Instead, doctors should be able to “recommend” the medical use of medical marijuana products, a concept at the base of every successful medical marijuana program in the country.

In addition, the bill caps the amount of THC at an artificially low amount, despite the fact that many seizure patients, including nine-year-old Texas native Alexis Bortell, need access to greater amounts of THC when used together with CBD. It also leaves behind patients with cancer, AIDS, multiple sclerosis, and other serious illnesses.

If the bill is to help the seriously ill patients it is intended to help, it is critical that it be amended. As a constituent of your representative, your voice is particularly important. With just two clicks of your mouse, you can send a message for improvement.

Texas coalition launches provocative TV ad supporting HB 507

Urgent Action: Call your state representative’s office in support of reducing penalties for marijuana possession (HB 507)!

Dear Supporter:

This morning, we began airing a TV ad featuring Russell Jones, a retired narcotics detective and Texas Hill Country resident. Jones says that people under the influence of marijuana are much less problematic than people under the influence of alcohol, and that “law enforcement officials have more important things to do with their time.”

We agree — this is a call to action! 

Call and ask your representative to vote in favor of HB 507 when the bill hits the floor later this week.

The TV ad — online here — is airing on CNN, ESPN, and Fox News Channel through Thursday at midnight, the deadline by which the House must approve HB 507 in order for it to advance to the Senate.

The ad cites annual arrest reports produced by the Texas Department of Public Safety that show that more than 360,000 arrests for marijuana possession were made in Texas from 2009-2013.

Rep. Moody’s HB 507 is common-sense legislation that is intended to reduce government waste and improve public safety. Let your state representative know: Voters want law enforcement officials to spend their time and resources addressing serious crimes, not arresting and jailing adults for simple marijuana possession. 

Pro-Marijuana Add on Texas

 A former police officer stars in a new pro-marijuana ad that has begun airing in Texas’ five largest cities.

The ad features retired narcotics detective and Texas Hill Country resident Russell Jones talking about how people act under the influence of marijuana, as opposed to alcohol.

“I know of no instance in my entire career where someone was acting out under the influence of marijuana,” Jones says. “People under the influence of alcohol are much more problematic. Law enforcement officials have more important things to do with their time than arrest people for marijuana possession. They need to be there to protect the public, to respond to crimes such as robbery, burglaries, rape, and murders.”

Christians for Marijuana Legalization in Texas

The Christian Case

Rep. David Simpson (R-Texas) introduced a bill in March that would make marijuana use legal in Texas and on Wednesday the Texas House of Representatives Jurisprudence Committee approved it

 Simpson argued that there is a “Christian Case” for legalizing marijuana, saying that the drug comes from God and shouldn’t be prohibited by the government. In an op-ed defending his view on marijuana legalization, he wrote “I don’t believe that when God made marijuana he made a mistake that government needs to fix.”

Texas wants to legalize Marijuana 

Known as House Bill 2165, the proposal would make Texas the fourth state to legalize marijuana for recreational use. Currently, Colorado, Washington State, Alaska, and Oregon have legalized pot, along with Washington, D.C.

The bill passed the Texas House Criminal Jurisprudence Committee 5-2, thanks to two Republicans, including David Simpson, who joined the panel’s three Democrats in approving the measure.

Why the Christian Right Is Backing Marijuana Reform in Texas

Big hair. Big barbecue. Big sky. Big guns. As the saying goes, everything’s bigger in Texas—but the state hardly has an outsize reputation for progressive marijuana reform.

If this legislative session is any indication, that could be changing. While previous sessions have seen one or two marijuana-related bills introduced, 11 bills taking on various facets of marijuana prohibition were introduced this session—including an effort to decriminalize—and on Wednesday the most comprehensive among them survived the Texas House of Representatives Criminal Jurisprudence Committee.

Introduced and backed by Rep. David Simpson of Longview—a Republican, Christian legislator who is supported by the Tea Party—H.B. 2165 would legalize marijuana possession for both recreational and medicinal use and create a system for the legal sale of the plant. The bill will now move to a full floor debate and vote in the House.

While marijuana legalization may bring to mind more liberal states such as Colorado and Washington or a dorm room full of hippies, the movement in Texas—and elsewhere in the country—is increasingly backed by conservatives.

“From a fiscal perspective, most Republicans already think marijuana use is not a major risk to public safety,” Zoe Russell, assistant director of Texas-based Republicans Against Marijuana Prohibition, told TakePart. “That message resonates across the board.”

The Houston-based reform group, which also has a chapter in North Carolina, is teaming up in its advocacy efforts with the nonpartisan reform organization the Marijuana Policy Project, along with other grassroots organizers. The group was founded a few years ago by an octogenarian—and lifelong Republican—who saw pot’s positive effects firsthand when it was successfully used in treating her paraplegic son’s muscle spasms.

The success of H.B. 2165 thus far has been a game changer that shows legislators are ready to take action—if you ask Heather Fazio, the political director of the Marijuana Policy Project’s Texas chapter.

“Whether they’re interested for social justice reasons or because they’re fiscal conservatives, Texans all across the state are supportive of this,” Fazio told TakePart.

According to Fazio, H.B. 2165 is carefully crafted not just to remove criminal penalties for medical marijuana but also to tax and regulate the drug for recreational use for Texans age 21 and up.

“Rep. Simpson wants marijuana to be regulated like jalapeños,” Fazio added. In other words, Simpson thinks it should be regulated like any other plant-based product on the market.

While first motivated by the medical needs of some of his constituents in northeastern Texas who had been failed by traditional medicine, Simpson decided to advocate for a tax-and-regulate system. The idea is to protect medical marijuana patients from federal prosecution if a new president decided not to follow the Obama administration’s lead and ramped up drug prosecutions.

Even if H.B. 2165 fails, this legislative session demonstrates that the movement for marijuana reform in Texas is picking up speed. While it might not become the next Washington or Colorado this year, Texans on both sides of the aisle are starting to agree that their state’s marijuana policy needs to change.

“[Marijuana is] not a problem that government needs to fix,” Fazio told TakePart. “The government needs to get out of the way.”

Texas House committee approves reduced penalties for marijuana possession

Buddy Kushman 

Texas420.net

This evening, the House Committee on Criminal Jurisprudence approved HB 507, a bill that removes the threat of arrest, jail time, and a criminal record for possession of small amounts of marijuana — replacing them with a civil fine of up to $250. The measure will now advance to the Calendars Committee to be scheduled for a vote by the Texas House. 

Call now to ask your representative to support HB 507.