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Pot bills get their own post

They got their own story in the Trib, so why not their own post.

Zonker

Texas lawmakers across the state say they want leniency in how the state prosecutes marijuana crimes. In an interview with Texas Tribune CEO Evan Smith Monday, State Rep. Jason Isaac, R-Dripping Springs, said he thinks the Legislature could decriminalize possession of small amounts of marijuana next year, especially after several states did so on Election Day.

“We’re spending our tax dollars on incarcerating [people that don’t deserve to be incarcerated] because they got caught with a small amount of marijuana,” said Isaac, whose district encompasses Texas State University. “These are people that we probably subsidize their public education, we probably subsidize where they went to a state school, and now they’re branded as a criminal when they go to do a background check.”

Isaac added that last session he was approached by state Rep. Joseph “Joe” Moody, D-El Paso, who asked Isaac to sign on to a decriminalization bill but didn’t because he “didn’t feel like it was the time.” During the interview Monday, however, Isaac said “it is the time now” and publicly pledged to sign on and work to get a bill passed that would decriminalize small amounts of marijuana.

Among the Texas proposals that have been filed thus far:

  • House Bill 58 by state Rep. James White, R-Woodville, would create a specialty court for certain first-time marijuana possession offenders based on the principle that first-time defendants are often self-correcting. The measure is intended to conserve law enforcement and corrections resources, White said in a news release.
  • State Rep. Joseph “Joe” Moody, D-El Paso, filed House Bill 81, which aims to replace criminal penalties for possession of up to an ounce of marijuana with a civil fine of up to $250. The bill also allows Texans to avoid arrest and possible jail time for possessing a small amount of marijuana. Moody authored a similar bill during the previous legislative session; it did not pass.
  • State Rep. Harold Dutton Jr., D-Houston, filed House Bill 82, which aims to classify a conviction for possession of one ounce or less of marijuana as a Class C misdemeanor instead of Class B. However, if a person is convicted three times, it would revert back to a Class B misdemeanor. Dutton co-authored a similar bill last session with Moody.
  • State Sen. José Rodríguez filed Senate Joint Resolution 17, which would allow voters to decide whether marijuana should be legalized in Texas, following the pattern of a number of states.
  • Senate Joint Resolution 18, also authored by Rodríguez, would allow voters to decide whether to legalize marijuana for medical use if recommended by a health care provider. “It is long past time we allow the people to decide,” Rodríguez said in a statement.
  • Rodríguez also filed Senate Bill 170, which would change possession of one ounce or less of marijuana from a criminal offense to a civil one.

Some of this is a continuation of efforts from 2015, some of it is in recognition of the multiple pro-decriminalization referenda that passed in other states, and some of it is from the desire to save a few pennies on law enforcement and criminal justice. I don’t care about the motive, I applaud the direction. As was the case in 2015, the main (though not only) obstacle is likely to be Greg Abbott, who was not interested in anything more than the meager cannobinoid oil bill that passed during that session. Typically, Abbott has had nothing to say about whether he remains firmly anti-pot or not. We’ll have to see what the lobbyists can do with him. For those of you who want to see changes, these are the bills to follow for now.

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5 Comments

  1. Bill Daniels says:

    Nothing short of full legalization of pot is the answer to the question. Senate joint resolution (I’m assuming there was no pun intended) 17 is the legislation that needs to pass. Put it to the voters.

    Liberals and libertarians will vote for it. Conservatives who are tired of spending their tax money arresting and locking up pot users and sellers will vote for it The black and Latino communities will block vote for it because they are disproportionately negatively effected by it. That just leaves the Dan Patrick moral majority folks and most of those involved in criminal justice…police unions, judges, lawyers, prison contractors, etc., who won’t support legalization, which, as it turns out, probably aren’t the majority of voters in Texas.

  2. Paul Kubosh says:

    Bill here is one thing you and I disagree on. I would never vote to legalize Pot for recreational use. I realize I am a dinosaur on the verge of extinction. Like I have said many times there is a new Moral Majority taking over. Have a Happy Thanksgiving.

  3. Erik says:

    Hey Paul,

    Wouldn’t a ‘moral majority’ require an actual majority? Last time I checked, Clinton is over 1.5 million votes ahead of Trump in the popular vote. Also, we all know why you don’t want to see it legalized…no more arrests leads to no more bail for your business…Get with the times maaaaaaan.

  4. Bill Daniels says:

    @Erik:

    Paul was being ironic, using “new moral majority” to mean, an actual immoral majority that promotes sodomy, men in women’s bathrooms, drug use and other progressive ideas that are anathema to churchgoers and conservatives. As you pointed out, those people ARE a majority in this country.

    You do have a valid point that Paul has a conflict of interest in this debate because he makes money of pot arrests. Based on what I have read from him, though, I bet he would be against legalized drugs even if there was no financial benefit to him for that.

  5. Paul Kubosh says:

    Bill,

    You are correct to both. The real upside for me is not the bail bond business. That is my brother. I will make a small fortune if they reduce possession to a class C misdemeanor.