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Texas Rep. seeks to end drivers license suspension for marijuana convictions

U.S. Rep. Beto O'Rourke, Democrat - El Paso
U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke, Democrat – El Paso

United States Congressional Representative Beto O’Rourke of Texas has introduced an amendment in the House of Representatives to effectively end the automatic suspension of drivers licenses for those who have been convicted of marijuana possession.

O’Rourke, a Democrat who represents El Paso and much of west Texas, along with Representatives Justin Amash (R-Michigan), Hakeem Jeffries (D-New York), and Jerrold Nadler (D-New York) introduced the amendment to an appropriations bill which the House is expected to take action on in September. The amendment eliminates funding for enforcement of Section 159 of title 23 according to the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML).

This section of enforcement reduces highway funding for states if they do not automatically suspend drivers licenses of anyone convicted of a drug offense. Mandatory suspension of a drivers license for a period of six months occurs even if there is no vehicle involved when a person is arrested. O’Rourke’s amendment would no longer penalize states which choose to not enforce the suspension.

This amendment is similar to the Better Drive Act, which Congressman O’Rourke introduced in April. The Better Drive Act removes the federal mandate that demands states to suspend the driver’s license of individuals with a marijuana possession conviction.

“Enacted over 25 years ago as a part of the so-called ‘War on Drugs,’ this mandate imposed on states does not improve highway safety or help people address substance abuse” NORML said in a statement. “Rather, it had the opposite effect, as this mandate ends up costing minor offenders their ability to get to work and to school, and other undue economic hardships.”

They concluded, “By adding an amendment to eliminate the financial penalty against states who do not follow the federal mandate, O’Rourke and his co-sponsors are pushing to ease the burdens against those whom are convicted for simple marijuana possession.”

Rep. O’Rourke is currently holding town halls across Texas as he moves to unseat United States Senator Ted Cruz, a Republican seeking his first re-election in 2018. He was recently in Victoria surveying the damage from Hurricane Harvey, and has been helping direct relief efforts by speaking with first-responders and educating Texans on how they can help those caught in the storm.

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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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