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Marijuana decriminalization bill passes House committee

Progress.

Rep. Joe Moody

The House Criminal Jurisprudence Committee advanced a marijuana decriminalization bill on Monday with the help of two Republicans.

With a 4–2 vote, the committee approved House Bill 81, authored by Chair Joe Moody, D-El Paso, at Monday’s hearing. Under HB 81, police would ticket someone caught with an ounce or less of marijuana rather than charging them with a Class B misdemeanor, which carries a punishment of up to six months in jail.

The measure passed with bipartisan support, but both no votes came from Republican freshmen — Cole Hefner, of Mt. Pleasant, and Mike Lang, of Granbury. Republicans Todd Hunter, of Corpus Christi, and Terry Wilson, of Marble Falls, joined the committee’s Democrats in advancing the bill beyond its first legislative hurdle.

“It is a fairly new concept in Texas not to criminalize conduct,” Moody told the Observer. “Part of the problem has been just getting people comfortable with the idea of treating this differently than we have in the past.”

[…]

Last session, Moody carried a nearly identical measure. Several Republicans, including David Simpson and Bryan Hughes — both of whom are no longer in the House — signed on to Moody’s bill as co-authors in 2013, but no GOP member supported the measure as a joint author, which is a greater show of support.

Moody will need all the help he can get from Republicans, including House Criminal Jurisprudence Committee Vice Chair Hunter, who voted in support of the bill on Monday. The proposal now advances to the Calendars Committee, which determines the flow of legislation into the full House. Hunter chairs the powerful committee, which comprises 10 Republicans and five Democrats.

Hunter will play a major role in determining whether HB 81 makes it to the House floor — further than any bill lessening penalties for marijuana offenses has made it in the legislative process.

I feel like this bill will have a decent chance to pass the House – it should at least get a vote, unless it becomes clear the numbers aren’t there for it. The prospects seem longer in the Senate, but at least now-Senator Bryan Hughes ought to support it. Even if it doesn’t go the distance, each step farther improves the odds that something like it can get passed in a future session. Public support is ahead of the Lege on this issue, and it will likely take a few more cycles to catch up.

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8 Comments

  1. Paul Kubosh says:

    I think this is great. The more pot heads the better.

  2. Bill Daniels says:

    So, how much is the proposed ticket going to cost? Also, I suspect that the kinds of people who actually get caught with pot aren’t going to pay whatever the ticket costs, or fight it in court, so there will still be jail time for non payment of the tickets in many cases. It will just be deferred, with warrants being issued, etc.

  3. Paul Kubosh says:

    I haven’t read the bill put any bill that requires more tickets to be written is good for me and I support

  4. Steve Houston says:

    PK, decriminalizing or even legalizing pot isn’t likely to greatly increase the number of “pot heads”, those who want to get high are already doing it and those who aren’t interested aren’t likely to jump in head first on a pot spree.

  5. Bill Daniels says:

    @Steve:

    Hold on a minute. I’m still waiting to find out what the fine is. If it’s under $ 100, I’m planning on beginning my pot smoking career and going whole hog. High as a kite, all day, every day. If it’s over $ 100, though, I’ll just continue through life sober.

    🙂

  6. paul a kubosh says:

    Steve,

    You and I will never agree on that. Colorado is a perfect example. Pot Heads and all their supporters are uniting. The next thing you will see is the proper use of Pot being taught in the public schools right along with how to use a condom and what do you do when a Police Officer stops you.

    Another reason why I didn’t send my kids to public schools. Yes we did say “Merry Christmas”.

  7. Bill Daniels says:

    @Paul:

    Unfortunately, kids these days need to have public education on what to do when a cop stops them, because too many breeders don’t teach their kids life skills like that at home. Have you been to a Walmart lately? If you and I were out of control like I see kids today, we’d both have trouble sitting for a week. Bad parenting = the schools have to teach kids to be respectful, especially to people with guns.

  8. C. L. says:

    @Bill… I, for one, would vote for you to start smoking reefer. Every day, from here on out. I can think of no downside for/to you, in fact the opposite…

    @Steve… Well said. There’d be no mass exodus to herb.

    @Paul… Too bad no one informed of us the perils of alcohol [or tobacco use] 1930-1990.