El Paso legislator taking heat from challenger for marijuana reform
Three-term incumbent Rep. Joe Moody is taking heat from his opponent for his views on marijuana penalty reform.
Moody, a Democrat from El Paso in the Texas House of Representatives, introduced a bill during the 2015 legislative session which would have made possession of an ounce or less of cannabis a $250 fine.
In a House controlled by Republicans, he was appointed as vice-chair of the Criminal Jurisprudence Committee. That committee, which is dominated by Republicans, would go on to pass his bill. Lawmakers ran out of time to hear the legislation before the session ended and it ultimately died in the Calendar Committee.
His Republican challenger, Jeffrey Lane, stated “It’s saying, ‘If we just legalize it, everything will be OK.’ My message is, hey kids, drugs are wrong and you shouldn’t use them.”
In Colorado, which has been the focal point of marijuana legalization, teen consumption of marijuana has not increased.
Each year, between 65,000 and 75,000 Texans are arrested for possession of marijuana. In most cases it is for a small amount.
Currently the penalty for possessing two ounces or less is a $2,000 fine and up to 180 days in jail. It also comes with a suspension of driver’s license, regardless of whether or not there was a vehicle involved, and a criminal record which is often used to deny homes and apartments to renters, as well as financial aid to students.
Moody likes his chances of getting a similar bill passed in 2017, given that there are now 4 states with legal marijuana, 25 with medical cannabis, and at least 9 other states considering some form of cannabis legislation at the polls this November. A pair of recent polls show national support for legalization at 57 percent and 60 percent.
Moody and Lane will be the only candidates on the ballot next month seeking the seat of District 78.
At the end of September filing, Lane had raised $880 for his campaign, with Moody pulling in $35,000.
Early voting begins in Texas on Monday, Oct. 24 and runs through Friday, Nov. 4. Election day is Tuesday, November 8.