Texas legislators receive 33,000 emails supporting marijuana reform
Texas lawmakers are being overwhelmed by emails in support of marijuana penalty reductions, medical marijuana, and full legalization.
Two bills in particular have been driving the massive 33,000 email response from Texans, both concerning decriminalization. The bills were filed late last year on the first day for when legislation could be submitted for the 2017 session. The deadline to file a bill for the 85th legislative session is Friday, March 10.
It is likely that legislators have received far more than 33,000 emails however, as this number only represents emails generated through action alerts by Texas NORML and Texans for Responsible Marijuana Policy.
HB 81, which has the support of nearly a third of the Texas House of Representatives with 39 lawmakers signing on, would make possession of an ounce or less of marijuana a civil fine of up to $250. Those found in possession of an ounce or less would have their cannabis confiscated and be issued a ticket. There would be no arrest or criminal record. Those unable to pay the fine may opt for community service if the district attorney determines that they are indigent.
The bill is sponsored by both Rep. Joe Moody, a Democrat from El Paso, and Rep. Jason Isaac, a Republican from Dripping Springs. Rep. Moody also serves as chair of the Criminal Jurisprudence Committee, which will hold a hearing for HB 81 on Monday, March 13.
Both Texans for Responsible Marijuana Policy and Texas NORML have been coordinating the outreach efforts, and both have had people at the capitol on a near daily basis. They released a statement today about the email response.
“We are happy to let you know that since November 2016 almost 33,000 Texans have emailed their legislators in our action alerts as pertains to House Bill 81. This is huge! It also means that some offices are getting an engagement literally as often as one every second.”
They added, “However, this means that we are reaching a saturation point. We have swayed many offices to our position. Our efforts have been a great success and is now on the verge of exhausting legislators and staff. Chairman Moody and many co-sponsors of HB 81 have requested the we slow our contacts so that we do not overshadow the issue and bill with advocacy. This also allows a period for advocates to rest so as to not tire out. This will be a long game to success. We will once again need these and similar efforts when HB 81 is sent to the full House for a vote.”
The next big push is expected to happen once HB 81 is scheduled by the Calendars Committee to be heard by the full House. It is not known when the Criminal Jurisprudence Committee will vote on the bill, though it is likely to pass given its strong support. A similar bill was passed out of the same committee during the 2015 legislative session, however it was not scheduled to be heard by the full House before the session ended.
To find out what you can do to advance marijuana reform legislation in Texas, click here.