Griffen Smith | United States
The bi-annual Texas state legislature often likes to create controversy in America, like passing a bill to legalize the carrying of swords in public or making it illegal to shoot a Bison after some owners felt left out in livestock protection laws. However, the Texas state house of representatives is beginning to gain attention for progressive policy on marijuana.
Decriminalization Bill is Proposed
On the afternoon of March 25th, representative Joe Moody (D-El Paso) saw to it that his legislation, House Bill 63, passed out of the Criminal Jurisprudence committee on a vote of 5-2. Moody’s proposal would weaken the penalties for possessing small amounts of marijuana, specifically, it would make possession of one ounce of the drug a fine not exceeding 250 dollars. Further, the legislation would prevent police officers from arresting an individual solely for possession of fewer than 4 ounces.
The bill, which now has over 50 legislators backing it, has finally been added to the house calendar on April 25th. However, even if the bill passes the House, the Senate will likely table it.
Why wouldn’t the legislature pass sensible marijuana laws that have bi-partisan support? The answer is Dan Patrick
Dan Patrick Resists the Marijuana Bill
Though many think of the sports icon Dan Patrick, the Dan discussed today is the lesser known Lieutenant Governor of Texas. Elected in 2014, Patrick (R) has the distinct duty of running the Senate chambers and organizing the docket. He explicitly stated in a 2019 Texas Tribune interview that Patrick is “strongly opposed to weakening any laws against marijuana [and] remains wary of the various medicinal use proposals that could become a vehicle for expanding access to this drug.” Backing Patrick’s stance is the House Freedom Caucus, a conservative political pact, which has worked tirelessly to make sure individuals are not free to enjoy a plant.
This anti-marijuana pact not only is attempting to block H.B. 63 from becoming law but in 2017 the freedom caucus worked to block over five bipartisan bills from being debated on the floor.
Currently, the 2019 state of Texas legislature has well over 60 bills concerning marijuana. Moody’s House Bill 63 is leading the pact. The legislature still scheduled Bill 63, despite the anti-drug pact trying to get the legislation tabled.
The Pew Research center found that six in ten Americans support the legalization of marijuana, and over half of all states have either legal recreational or medical cannabis. Yet in the state of Texas, a stubborn Lieutenant governor and a not very free freedom caucus are keeping Texan pot users further oppressed, while other progressive states are joining the drug reform movement.
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