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Texas marijuana penalty reduction bills up in smoke

It was standing room only during the Criminal Jurisprudence Committee hearing. Photo by Shaun McAlister www.iamshaun.com
It was standing room only during the Criminal Jurisprudence Committee hearing. Photo by Shaun McAlister www.iamshaun.com

Three marijuana penalty reduction bills have failed in a Texas House committee after a vote was taken while some members of that committee were absent. The author of one of those bills, Rep. Joe Moody of El Paso, says that those two absent members likely would have voted in favor of his bill.

Moody’s legislation, House Bill 507, which would decrease possession of less than an ounce of marijuana to a fine and no arrest, failed a 3-2 vote.

Reps. Terry Canales of Edinburg and Todd Hunter of Corpus Christi were both seen as potential supporters of the bill, however they were not present during the vote, which was scheduled by committee chair Rep. Abel Herrero, who lives near Corpus Christi.

There is however still a chance for HB 507 to pass out of committee, and Rep. Moody is working with Rep. Herrero to make changes to the bill and bring it up for another vote in committee.

Bills have until May 11 to be voted out of committee before they’re considered dead.

The committee also voted down House Bill 325 and 414, both which would have reduced the penalty for possession of small amounts of cannabis to a Class C misdemeanor. Each failed with a 2-2 vote, while three of the committee members were absent.

The official votes for each piece of legislation include Rep. Herrero voting in favor of both 414 and 325 while voting against 507. Rep. Moody voted for 507 and was absent for the other two. Rep. David Simpson of Longview voted in favor of all three bills. Both Rep. Matt Shaheen of Plano and Rep. Jeff Leach who represents several counties in north Texas voted against all three bills.

Both Rep. Canales and Rep. Hunter were absent for all three votes.

Soon after the vote, Rep. Shaheen posted to his Facebook page that he was “Proud to serve on the House Criminal Jurisprudence Committee and my work to stop attempts at legalizing marijuana.”

Matt Shaheen

This comes despite hours of testimony by over 50 people in support of the penalty reductions bill during a hearing last month.

No action has been taken on Rep. Simpson’s bill, HB 2165, which essentially legalizes marijuana by removing all penalties for possession and sale of the plant.

By: Stephen Carter

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Stephen Carter

Stephen Carter is a 30 year old 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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