Special session hearing scheduled for marijuana penalty reduction bill
Marijuana policy reform advocates are keeping the conversation alive at the Texas capitol with the help of a few state lawmakers. A hearing will be held this week about reducing penalties for marijuana possession.
The special session called by Governor Greg Abbott is beginning to near its end, and while it’s unlikely that the governor will allow any marijuana-related bills to be passed, that hasn’t stopped one lawmaker from ensuring that the subject of cannabis reform is taken seriously.
HB 334 was filed by Rep. Joe Moody (D-El Paso) last month, and will now have a hearing on Wednesday, August 9 by the Criminal Jurisprudence Committee. The bill would make possession of an ounce or less of marijuana a civil fine not to exceed $250. There would be no arrests or jail time, suspension of driver’s license, or a criminal record. Currently those found in possession of two ounces or less can face up to 180 days in jail, a $2,000 fine, and suspension of their driver’s license even if the person was not driving at the time.
Jax Finkel, the Executive Director of Texas NORML, has been a fixture at the capitol since lawmakers began their regular session in January. She has been working with Rep. Moody and other lawmakers to advance marijuana policy reform this year, both for medical cannabis and penalty reduction.
She says that if the legislature manages to tackle all 20 items the governor has laid out for them, it will be possible for them to begin taking on other issues, and that this hearing will keep the topic going and allow the subject of marijuana reform to have a leg up on other bills.
“I encourage those that have personal stories as victims of the drug war or as participants in the law enforcement or judiciary to support HB 334 so that we can protect the rights of our fellow Texans to not be criminalized by possession of a plant,” Finkel states.
The committee is scheduled to meet as soon as the Texas House of Representatives adjourns or goes into recess on Wednesday, possibly as early as 10:30 am. Five bills are slated to be heard.
Finkel say’s that those interested in participating in this hearing have several options, including emailing their testimony to the committee clerk, coming to the capitol and signing up in support of the bill, which takes one a few minutes, or testifying on behalf of the bill.
Those seeking to email their testimony can send it to email@example.com with an attached PDF of their testimony and a subject line of “FIRST Name, LAST — Supporting HB 334.”
Anyone interested in testifying will have three minutes and should bring 12 copies of their testimony for the committee members.