Texas politicians becoming open to changing marijuana laws after citizens reach out
Texas representatives have begun to open up to the idea of changing the state’s marijuana laws.
Tristan Tucker, who is deputy director of the Dallas/Fort Worth chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (DFW NORML), has spoken with more than 15 state and federal representatives about marijuana, and how legalizing this plant could benefit the health of Texans and the Texas economy.
“The more we’re out in the open talking about this, and the closer we are to session, the more open the representatives are to talk,” Tucker said. “We currently have members going with board members and liaisons to meet with state representatives to tell their story five days a week.”
Tucker knows at least a few hundred Texans have contacted their representatives.
“We have veterans, children, and parents going to speak with representatives because NORML is going to be pushing for medical marijuana legislation as our ultimate goal in 2015,” Tucker stated. “We feel like it is not only practical to submit this legislation, but it is also probable that it will pass.”
Randall Kuykendall, a lobbyist from Congress Avenue Consulting, was contracted by Marijuana Policy Project (MPP) and NORML last November to speak and work with Texas legislators in regards to public policy.
Kuykendall lobbied for Texas Law Enforcement, and has a lot of connections that NORML and MPP need to make, Tucker said.
“Kuykendall talked with Representative Myra Crownover of District 64 about sending out a newsletter which features a questionnaire that Denton residents are able to fill out, inquiring if District 64’s residents are in favor of decriminalization,” Tucker said.
One of the five questions on the questionnaire asks for support or opposition on changing marijuana laws from being a criminal offense, to a civil offense.
Criminal offenses can result in an arrest or a confinement in a jail or prison, whereas civil offenses involve fines.
Tucker explains that NORML and MPP are drafting a civil penalties bill, a medical marijuana bill and a full plant legalization bill.
“After they are drafted, they need to be checked, filed early and sponsored,” Tucker said.
Tucker said NORML and MPP are following Colorado’s successes with the way their bills are written.
“In our civil penalties bill, Texans will no longer go to jail for marijuana possession, they won’t lose financial aid and will be able to get an apartment or house. It would essentially be a $50 or $100 fine for possessing an ounce of product,” Tucker said.
The Republican Liberty Caucus is also starting to become a lot more open to what NORML and MPP are doing, Tucker said.
“There are members of the Republican Liberty Caucus who support intelligent reform to Texas drug policy,” Tucker said. “The republicans are actually interested, and want to talk about these bills. They understand that if they don’t work with the people, they’re going to be gone.”
Tucker urges Texans to contact their representatives and give their opinion about marijuana; that without people contacting their representatives, those politicians will not see the needed support for them to go forward with changing the laws.
“Our representatives aren’t leaders, they’re followers, that’s why we elect them. It’s important that people read this and talk to their representatives because they need to know what our desires are as far as public policy goes.”
As of 1997, the state of Texas is no longer able to decriminalize drugs at a city level. It has to be a state-level mandate.
“Without us, they will continue to do the exact same thing. Not voting is refusing to have your voice heard, it’s giving them consent to continue doing exactly what they’ve been doing.”
By: Allison Nash