On Monday, Texas Residence lawmakers achieved an historic very first for the state. They voted to approve a partial decriminalization bill that would have lowered penalties for the possession of tiny quantities of cannabis. But as quickly as the Residence sent the measure to the Senate, Lt. Gov. of Texas and Senate President Dan Patrick declared the bill dead. Patrick’s comments came on the heels of a equivalent statement from Senate Criminal Justice Committee Chair John Whitmire, who told reporters there wasn’t “an appetite” for marijuana reform in the upper chamber. Advocates of the decriminalization measure had currently compromised on the bill to get it by means of the Residence. And in the wake of Patrick’s declaration, they’re vowing to discover widespread ground with Senate opposition.
Watered-Down Decriminalization Bill Nonetheless As well Intense for Texas Senators
Residence Bill 63 is sponsored by Texas state Rep. Joe Moody (D-El Paso), a lawmaker who has been attempting for years to ease Texas’ harsh criminalization of cannabis. This time about, Moody succeeded in finding his bill by means of the conservative Texas Residence by proposing a watered-down version of his original decriminalization bill.
Initially, Rep. Moody proposed replacing criminal penalties for minor cannabis possession completely. Residence Bill 63, in its original version, would have replaced criminal charges for any one caught possessing up to an ounce of marijuana with a civil fine of $250. Only persons who received 3 such “weed tickets” would face misdemeanor criminal charges.
On Monday, nevertheless, Moody watered down his personal bill, transforming it from a complete to a partial decriminalization measure. As an alternative of civil penalties and fines, the revised version of HB 63 would merely minimize possession of significantly less than an ounce from a Class B to Class C misdemeanor. Possession amongst a single ounce and two ounces would nonetheless be a Class B misdemeanor, carrying jail time, a $two,000 fine or each.
But even though the revised version of Rep. Moody’s decriminalization bill won favor amongst Residence lawmakers, passing with a 103-42 vote, it was nonetheless as well intense for opponents of marijuana reform in the Senate. “I attempt not to bring problems that are going to be time-consuming if they’re not going to get assistance, Sen. John Whitmire (D-Houston) told The Texas Observer.
Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick Opposes Partial Decrim ss Step Toward “Colorado-Style” Legalization
In his declaration that Residence Bill 63 was dead-on-arrival in the Texas Senate, Lt. Gov. and Senate President Dan Patrick echeoed Sen. Whitmire’s statement. “Criminal Justice Chair @Whitmire_Jhn is proper that #HB 63 is dead in the @Texas Senate,” Patrick tweeted early Tuesday.
“I join with these Residence Republicans who oppose this step toward legalization of marijuana,” Lt. Gov. Patrick’s tweet added.
Lt. Gov. Patrick has a extended record of speaking out against bills aimed at loosening Texas’ marijuana laws. He has repeatedly condemned such efforts as “vehicles for expanding access to this drug,” according to a earlier statement.
Rep. Moody blasted Patrick’s remarks prior to his Residence colleagues Tuesday. “Whatever you believe about Colorado-style legalization, this is not it. It is not even a step toward it,” Moody stated.
In Texas, any one caught with an ounce or significantly less of cannabis can face up to 180 days in jail and up to $two,000 in fines. In 2017 alone, Texas law enforcement arrested far more than 60,000 persons for basic marijuana possession. These 60,000 arrests make up far more than half of the state’s total drug possession arrests. And as is the case about the nation, these figures are marred by intense racial disparities, with black and Latinx persons facing disproportionate arrest prices compared with white persons.
Advocates Will Continue Push for Marijuana Reform in Texas
Rep. Moody’s bill was a criminal justice reform bill, not a “step-toward-legalization” bill as detractors claim. If lowered to a Class C misdemeanor, possession up to an ounce would only cary a maximum $5000 fine, no jail time and the possibility for criminal record expungement.
Advocates of drug policy reform, along with Rep. Moody, have vowed to continue the fight. “Dan Patrick is the odd man out right here and the ball is in his court,” Moody told his Residence colleagues.
Heather Fazio, director of Texans for Accountable Marijuana Policy and supporter of Rep. Moody’s bill, acknowledged that operating by means of the legislative approach would be complicated, but not not possible. A compromise identified widespread ground amongst a majority of Residence lawmakers, and Fazio stated the similar can come about in the Senate. “We intend to bring that spirit to the Texas Senate,” Fazio stated.