UPDATED: Cannabis, Texas: How Close Are We to Legalization in the Lone Star State?
Photo by it was 3 a.m. via flickr
Update: Sito Negron, communications director for Senator Jose Rodriguez contacted us to say that while Rodriguez has advocated for a review of our marijuana policies, he never has advocated for its use.
The buzz about cannabis reform is still going strong, well after the very first recreational pot shops in Colorado opened their doors to long lines and sellout crowds. Folks are excited about the impending change, and rightfully so. Marijuana has cleared some major milestones, jumping in some states from outlawed to outright legal, and taking baby-steps toward reform in others.
We all know where Colorado and Washington are on the marijuana reform scale; they're all for legal pot, and it certainly seems to be popular in their respective states. And when you dig through the all of media hype over the success in Colorado, there are signs of political movement toward in other states as well.
But that begs the question; where Texas is at in all of this legalization hubbub? Are we any closer to a rational policy on cannabis use, or will we drag our conservative feet until the other 49 states have come around?
Well, we've got a few of those answers for you in our Cannabis, Texas roundup. Here are the milestones Texas has made in the fight for legalization and decriminalization over the past year. And yes, there's a nod to Kinky Friedman. We like him too.
Texas politicians across party lines voiced their support of the legalization movement.
Photo by dannybirchall via flickr
Highlights of the 2013 political movement:
Texas rep Steve Stockman signed in support of the Respect State Marijuana Laws act, a federal bill that would respect state cannabis laws, much to the surprise of just about everybody, considering his staunchly conservative track record.
Senator Jose Rodriguez of El Paso hosted the Border Legislative Conference, which aims to educate lawmakers in Mexico and Texas about the upside of legalization.
Rodriguez also became the first of the 31 Texas State Senators to voice his support of the cannabis reform movement, which is super awesome. Rodriguez also invited Texas NORML director Cheyanne Weldon to speak on the marijuana legislation and marijuana initiatives during the conference. Who knew El Paso could be so progressive, eh?
Marijuana advocate and Texas legend Kinky Friedman announced his candidacy for Agriculture Commissioner, and noted that cannabis and hemp legalization would be a major priority within his campaign. Not nearly as surprising, but just as awesome. Why the hell not?
Oh, and the Texas Libertarian Party and the League of Women Voters of Texas proudly stated their support for the legalization movement.
There are also a growing number of Texas politicians that support the legalization or decriminalization of marijuana in our great state. Here are the folks who have been working their political tails off to advocate for marijuana
use policy reform:
Congressman Beto O'Rourke
Senator Jose Rodriguez
Senator Steve Stockman
Rep. Harold Dutton, Jr
Rep. Elliot Naishtat
Former State Rep. Miriam Martinez
Former State Rep. Terry Keel
And, of course, the always loveable Kinky Friedman
Two cannabis bills were brought in front of the Texas Lege in 2013. Neither were passed, but more consideration was given to them than in the years past.
HB 184, a bill that was reintroduced by Rep. Harold Dutton, aimed to amend the harsh penalties for possessing marijuana. The bill would have reduced the penalties up to 1 ounce from a Class B misdemeanor, in which you can face 180 days of jail time and a whopping $2,000 fine, to a Class C misdemeanor with a maximum fine of $500 and no jail time. The bill was not voted to calendar for a debate by the full House, unfortunately, which left it dead in the water.
HB 594, a bill reintroduced by Elliot Naishtat, who has been essential in introducing this bill in one form or another over the years, would have changed quite a bit for medical marijuana use in Texas. It is currently illegal for doctors in Texas to discuss the potentials of cannabis use as a medical treatment with their patients, and if they do, they risk losing their medical licenses. HB 594 would have kept that from happening, and also would have allowed patients to present a medical defense -- with physician recommendation, of course -- when facing criminal charges for cannabis possession. Ultimately, the bill wasn't voted on.