Marijuana reform in Texas loses a champion
A Texas state representative who helped champion marijuana law reform by introducing a medical marijuana bill this year has stated that she will not seek reelection and retire from public service.
Rep. Marisa Marquez, a Democrat from El Paso, introduced HB 3785 during the 2015 legislative session which would have established a comprehensive whole plant medical marijuana program covering an array of patients including those fighting cancer, seizures, and severe pain.
That bill would ultimately fail to receive a vote in the Public Health committee, despite over 70 people attending to testify in favor of the bill while no one spoke in opposition to it. Rep. Myra Crownover, a Republican from Denton, chaired the committee and refused to allow a vote on the matter, even going so far as to shut down the phones to her office so people could not call in to request that the bill be voted on.
Marquez made the announcement on her website, stating “Though my public service is ending, I plan to remain very active in Texas politics,” Márquez said in the statement. “I am truly grateful to the many people who have worked with me on the passage of important legislation for our area and to my constituency for their support over the last eight years.”
She added, “I accomplished a lot over these past eight years,” Márquez said in the statement. “This session, as the first El Paso woman and second El Pasoan since 1959 appointed to the Appropriations Education Subcommittee, I secured historical funding for El Paso of which I am very proud. My vital role in the budget process has awarded me an invaluable opportunity to bring wonderful things to El Paso, namely a brand new visitor center and pharmacy school, which will benefit many El Pasoans beyond my tenure. For this I am grateful and feel it is time to allow someone new to continue building upon these accomplishments.”
One El Paso resident, Colt DeMorris, had been in contact with both Marquez’s office and Rep. Joe Moody, also a Democrat, about the need to champion marijuana law reform in Texas. Rep. Moody also submitted legislation during the 2015 session to decrease the penalty for possession of small amounts of marijuana to a ticket-only fine. That bill initially was voted down in committee, however it received a second vote and was passed. It would later die in the Calendar Committee when it was not scheduled to be heard on the House floor by legislators.
DeMorris, who heads up a local non-profit chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (El Paso NORML) stated that he was surprised by the announcement, but felt good about the future.
“El Paso NORML will keep tabs on the upcoming candidates and educate the public on all of their stances and we will dig to see how far that support the cause. We need to elect people that want and support what we the citizens of El Paso want.”
He added “Marquez did a big and bold thing and fought for something that not only El Pasoans wanted, but Texans all across Texas! She fought hard and with facts. She did her part. It saddens me that she won’t be around next session, but I am confident El Paso can get the right candidate in place!”
According to the El Paso Times, one of Marquez’s accomplishments during her time in office was passing legislation in response to the El Paso Independent School District cheating scandal that will help find students improperly forced out of school and help them finish their education and a law giving the state superintendent of education subpoena power to investigate claims of falsified test scores.
Márquez, 36, was first elected in 2008 to represent District 77, which includes parts of the West Side, Central, South and Northeast El Paso. She is also the first female to represent that district.
Democrats have ran nearly unopposed for the seat since 1992, save for an independent candidate bid in 2014.
By: Stephen Carter
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