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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 rachel.wetsel_hc@house.texas.gov 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.

Stay up to date with the latest cannabis news from a Texas perspective by following the Texas Cannabis Report social media pages.

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Stephen Carter

Stephen Carter is a journalist and information technology specialist living in Waco, Texas. He has been working with the cannabis movement since 2009. He founded Texas Cannabis Report in 2013 to bring Texans accurate cannabis related news.

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    August 7, 2017 at 5:59 pm

    Hope for the best but expect the worst with Gregg Abbot when one man has the power to make a state as big as Texas bend to his will we will see his true colors I tell everyone I know and meet to think about us meaning Texans to please not vote for a man who only cares about his finatial gain I really hope Texans realize this we need a man or woman like Joe Moody as govenor

  2. J
    August 8, 2017 at 12:32 pm

    I’m so tired of this tease. We all know that this is not going to amount to anything. Stop begging for permission to do what you need to for your own health. As long as our “representatives” accept contributions from big pharma and private prisons you will not see a change at the state or federal level. Remember what it is to have American/Texas spirit. If your government does not have your best interest in mind, tell them they can kiss your ass! Do what you have to do, stand together, and when doing your civic duty refuse to convict non violent drug offenders. Together the ants can take down the elephant.

  3. Allen
    August 13, 2017 at 2:12 pm

    Why haven’t we heard a conclusion to this session was it shot down