40 Texas legislators sign on to marijuana penalty reduction bill
A bill to make possession of an ounce or less of marijuana a fine-only offense with no jail time has the support of 40 Texas lawmakers, bringing support levels to nearly a third of the House of Representatives.
In all, there are 37 Democrats and two Republicans who have signed on to HB 81. In addition, an identical bill, SB 170, introduced to the Texas Senate has one Democrat, Sen. José Rodríguez of El Paso, who filed the legislation.
Filed by Rep. Joe Moody (D-El Paso) HB 81 would change what currently amounts to jail time, loss of driver’s license, and a permanent criminal record, to a fine not to exceed $250, with no arrest, no jail time, no loss of license, and no criminal record.
The bill is also authored by Rep. Jason Issac (R-Austin), Rep. Harold Dutton Jr. (D-Houston), and Ina Minjarez (D-San Antonio). The other Republican is Rep. Rick Miller of Sugar Land.
Republican support for marijuana support has been sparse, despite polling by UT/Texas Tribune which indicates that 83 percent of Texans want to see penalties scaled back or the plant legalized entirely. The GOP currently controls two-thirds of the Texas House of Representatives.
HB 81 has been referred to the Criminal Jurisprudence Committee, which Rep. Moody chairs, ensuring that the bill will at least receive a swift hearing and vote. A similar bill passed out of committee during the 2015 legislative session, however the Calendars Committee failed to schedule it for a hearing by the full House before the session ended.
To date, 18 cannabis-related bills have been filed with the Texas legislature.