This is a pleasant surprise.
For the first time, a committee in the Legislature has approved a bill to decriminalize possession of marijuana, a move advocates hailed as a milestone moment in Texas.
The state House Criminal Jurisprudence Committee passed House Bill 507 late Monday, just three days after narrowly voting it down.
The tally the second time around was 4-2, with tea party Republican David Simpson of Longview joining with three Democrats. One GOP member did not attend.
The measure, which would make possession of less than an ounce of pot a civil infraction instead of a class B misdemeanor, will now go to the committee that controls the floor calendar.
It will likely stay there, and has virtually no chance of becoming law in a deeply conservative Legislature.
Nevertheless, the committee’s decision speaks volumes on how far Texas has shifted on the controversial matter.
Bill sponsor Joe Moody, D-El Paso, said in a statement that “Texas cannot afford to continue criminalizing tens of thousands of citizens for marijuana possession each year.”
“We need to start taking a more level-headed approach,” Moody said. “It is neither fair nor prudent to arrest people, jail them, and give them criminal records for such a low-level, non-violent offense.”
In addition to Moody and Simpson, state Reps. Abel Herrero of Robstown and Terry Canales of Edinburg supported the bill. Plano Republicans Jeff Leach and Matt Shaheen voted no.
See here for the background. As the story notes, this bill had been voted down 3-2 in committee on Friday, but Canales was absent and Herrero voted against it at that time, having some concerns about the bill that Moody was able to assuage. This bill may never gets on the calendar for a vote from the full House, but just getting it out of committee is a big step forward.
The other pot reform bills are unlikely to fare as well.
The chair of the committee that controls the fate of medical marijuana legalization in Texas said Monday that “there are still a lot of questions to be answered” about the legislation, indicating it is unlikely to win approval before next week’s deadline.
“The bills need a lot of time and attention,” state Rep. Myra Crownover, R-Denton, said in an interview outside a forum here about health issues in the Legislature.
The House Public Health Commitee chair’s comments came after a discussion in which she said she had heard “compelling” testimony about possible benefits of marijuana for medical conditions but wanted to study how legalization has played out in states such as Colorado and California.
She would not declare the bill dead in the interview, but repeated the state was at the beginning of a “long process” toward legalization.
See here, here, and here for the background. The deadline for bills to pass out of committee for consideration on the floor is Monday, so you do the math. If you had 2015 for medical marijuana legalization in the office betting pool, you may as well use those betting slips as rolling paper, because you’re not getting any other value out of them. A statement from RAMP on Rep. Moody’s bill is here, and the Current has more.
In a surprise move that supporters hailed as a historic victory, the Texas House Criminal Jurisprudence Committee approved legislation Wednesday to make it legal to buy and sell marijuana in the state.
Two Republicans joined with the panel’s three Democrats in support, giving House Bill 2165 a decisive 5-2 victory.
The proposal, which would make Texas the fifth state in America to OK pot for recreational purposes, has virtually no chance of clearing any other hurdles on the path to becoming law in this year’s legislative session.
Still, advocates described the committee vote as a big step toward future success.
“Marijuana policy reform continues to make unprecedented progress this session,” Phillip Martin of the liberal group Progress Texas tweeted just after the vote.
Apparently, the Texas Compassionate Use Act also passed out of committee. Gotta say, I didn’t expect either of that. I don’t expect any of these bills to go farther than this, but still, a bridge has been crossed. It’s impressive.