Republicans coming around to marijuana in Texas
Republicans are counted on to be a driving factor of most legislative efforts in Texas, and marijuana law reform has been no exception.
Multiple bills have been introduced this session pertaining to marijuana and they have been supported by 10 Republicans.
The bill which has received the most support from members of the GOP is HB 892, which legalizes CBD-only medical marijuana. This bill enjoys the support of Stephanie Klick, John M. Zerwas, Bill Zedler, J. D. Sheffield, Jason Isaac, and Rick Miller, all of whom are Republicans. An identical bill in the senate was put forth by a Republican as well, Kevin Eltife.
HB 325, which reduces the penalty to a fine for possession of 10 grams or less of marijuana, has gained the support of Republican Representative Phil Stephenson.
Possibly the biggest bill to make waves this session though is HB 2165, introduced by David Simpson, a Republican from east Texas. This bill would eliminate all penalties for possession of marijuana.
On the other side of the aisle, 16 Democrats have lined up to support various marijuana reform bills as well.
Groups such as the Texas Young Republicans, and Republicans Against Marijuana Prohibition have stepped up to support changing marijuana laws too.
The Dallas Morning News reports that more than three-fourths of the Texas Young Republican’s membership supports decriminalizing possession of less than an ounce of marijuana.
“People have different positions. There are some that want to see the incarceration rate go down, there are some that want to save money and then use that money for other law enforcement purposes,” said Brian Bodine, policy director of the Texas Young Republican Federation.
“People have different reasons, but freedom is probably the big one — and personal liberty and responsibility,” Bodine said.
On the other hand, Republicans Against Marijuana Prohibition, led by 85-year-old long time Republican Ann Lee, has been working hard to change the minds of those in the GOP on the subject.
“It disturbs me greatly that Republicans would distort the principles of small government, fiscal responsibility and personal liberty in such a way that they could support the failed principle of marijuana prohibition any longer,” Lee states.
During the state conventions last year, the Republican Party of Texas came very close to adding marijuana law reform to their state platform, and did succeed in adding hemp as an issue, which shares a relationship to marijuana since they are both from the cannabis plant family.
An election for district attorney in Houston fired up the debate of how to deal with those found in possession of a small amount of marijuana, and ultimately forced incumbent and eventual winner Devon Anderson, a Republican, to take a positive stand on keeping low level marijuana offenders out of jail.
This also drew support from the Houston Young Republicans, who have been involved with efforts to educate people about the need to reform marijuana laws in southeast Texas.
Polls have consistently shown that a majority of Texans support legalization at 58 percent, while a recent Texas Tribune poll shows at 77 percent want to at least decrease the penalties for simple possession of cannabis.
A conservative estimate places marijuana prohibition in Texas at a loss of $1 billion per year for the state.
By: Stephen Carter
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