Four proposals to lower penalties for marijuana possession are scheduled to be heard in the Texas House Criminal Jurisprudence Committee on Wednesday, April 8, 2015. Marijuana advocates are hopeful that the new makeup of the Texas committee will give the proposals a better chance than in years past, when other marijuana bills were heard but killed. Out of 7 committee members, 3 are Democrats and 1, a pro-legalization Republican.
A bipartisan group called Texans for Responsible Marijuana Policy coalition states they’ve collected over 15,000 signatures of support.
The main points of the four marijuana proposals to be heard in Texas are summarized below:
- HB 507 (Joe Moody, D-El Paso-Vice Chair of the committee) : Possession of less than 1 ounce of marijuana would be a civil infraction similar to a traffic ticket (currently, in Texas, it is a class B misdemeanor). Supporters say this one change would save Texas taxpayers $700 million per year through lower jail costs.
- HB 325 (Gene Wu, D-Houston) and 414 (Harold Dutton D-Houston) : Reduce possession of a small amount of marijuana to a class C misdeamor.
- HB 2165 (David Simpson, R-Longview) : Would essentially legalize pot completely. Considered too radical in the current political climate that it has not drawn much support, even from advocates who see it as a non-starter. (David Simpson is noted as saying “everything that God made is good, even marijuana.”)
It should be noted that even if any of the marijuana bills make it out of the Texas House Criminal Jurisprudence Committee, the legislation is still likely to die in the Republican-dominated Texas Legislature. However, it would still be a first and a step forward for the Marijuana Legalization Movement.
The fact that David Simpson’s proposal is considered too radical even by the advocates in Texas says a great deal about the overall political climate in Texas, and doesn’t seem to bode well for recreational marijuana legalization in Texas in the near future.