This year for the first time in recent history bills to legalize and decriminalize marijuana and a medical marijuana bill have all made it out of committees, but for one Southeast Texas man, the debate isn’t in Austin but in Beaumont.
In just a few months Jeremy Bourque says he’ll be at the Jefferson County Courthouse ready to go to trial on a felony drug possession charge. The 38-year old has grown and used marijuana for years to treat his epilepsy. The legal battle he faces, he called a life or death situation.
“In the 20 years since I’ve been doing it, it’s never done anything but help me stay alive,” Bourque said.
He attributes being alive, having fewer seizures and fewer hospital stays to using medicinal marijuana.
“In the year and a half that I’ve been removed from my way of treatment I’ve been in the hospital more than 10 times, I can say for sure, in one year compared to twice in 20 years,” he said.
Posted: May 12, 2015 5:43 PM CDT
By Alicia Neaves
An ad released early Tuesday by the Coalition of Texans for Responsible Marijuana Policy has its eyes set on one goal, to reduce punishment for low-level marijuana possession.
The ad is focused on House Bill 507. If passed, the bill will remove the threat of arrest, jail time and criminal record if a person is caught with one ounce or less of marijuana. Instead, these offenders will face a civil fine of up to $250.
The Marijuana Policy Project made the ad on behalf of the coalition.
“The laws that are in the books are not working. They do not reduce the use of marijuana. They do not make it less available to children. What we need to have are sensible policies,” said Heather Fazio, Texas Political Director of the Marijuana Policy Project.
The ad will run in Dallas, Houston, San Antonio and Austin until Thursday at midnight as the deadline approaches for legislators to approve the bill.
“This bill is about good government and good public policy. It would help to streamline our very limited and valuable police and criminal justice resources. Something that affects all Texans,” said Fazio.
A pro-marijuana ad debuting in Texas on Tuesday showcases a retired police officer who says the state should take a more “sensible” approach to marijuana policies because the drug causes far fewer problems than alcohol.
“I know of no instance in my entire career where someone was acting out under the influence of marijuana,” says Russell Jones in the ad supporting a Texas House bill that would decriminalize marijuana, reducing the penalty for possessing less than an ounce to a maximum civil fine of $250. Current state law allows maximum penalties of six months in jail and a $2,000 fine for possessing less than two ounces.
“People under the influence of alcohol are much more problematic,” adds Jones, a retired narcotics detective who served for 10 years in California and now lives in central Texas. “Law enforcement officials have more important things to do with their time than arresting people for marijuana possession. They need to be there to protect the public to respond to crimes such as robbery, burglaries, rapes and murders.”
The Texas House Committee on Criminal Jurisprudence approved the bill, sponsored by state Rep. Joe Moody (D), last week. The House must approve the bill by midnight Thursday for it to advance to the Senate.
The ad was sponsored by Texans for Responsible Marijuana Policy and was produced and paid for by the advocacy group Marijuana Policy Project. It will air in the Austin, Dallas, Houston and San Antonio markets on CNN, ESPN, and Fox News Channel beginning Tuesday, and will continue through the legislative deadline Thursday.
“This is commonsense legislation that is intended to reduce government waste and improve public safety,” Heather Fazio, Texas political director for Marijuana Policy Project, said in a statement. “Voters want law enforcement officials to spend their time and resources addressing serious crimes, not arresting and jailing adults for simple marijuana possession. We hope the House will pass this important legislation before time runs out.”
In the ad, a retired narcotics detective and Texas Hill Country resident says people under the influence of marijuana are much less problematic than people under the influence of ALCOHOL and that ‘law enforcement officials have more important things to do with their time’ than arrest people for possessing the less harmful substance
The TV spot — online at http://youtu.be/E83Uv4VtpsE— will run in the state’s largest markets through Thursday at midnight, the deadline by which the House must approve HB 507, which would remove the threat of arrest, jail time, and criminal records and replace them with a civil fine of up to $250
AUSTIN — A provocative television ad in support of legislation to reduce penalties for simple marijuana possession in Texas began airing Tuesday in the state’s four largest media markets. The ad is scheduled to air on CNN, ESPN, and Fox News Channel across Dallas-Fort Worth, Houston, San Antonio, and Austin through Thursday at midnight, the deadline by which the House must approve HB 507 in order for it to advance to the Senate.
In the ad, Russell Jones, a Texas Hill Country resident who served 10 years as a police officer and narcotics detective in California, highlights the relative safety of marijuana compared to alcohol and says limited law enforcement resources should not be wasted on arresting and jailing people for using the less harmful substance.
“I know of no instance in my entire career where someone was acting out under the influence of marijuana,” Jones says. “People under the influence of alcohol are much more problematic. Law enforcement officials have more important things to do with their time than arrest people for marijuana possession. They need to be there to protect the public, to respond to crimes such as robbery, burglaries, rape, and murders.”
The ad cites annual arrest reports produced by the Texas Department of Public Safety that show more than 360,000 arrests for marijuana possession were made in Texas from 2009-2013.
“Our state cannot afford to keep arresting people and putting them in jail for marijuana possession,” Jones says. “It’s time for a more sensible approach.”
HB 507, authored by Rep. Joe Moody (D-El Paso), would remove the threat of arrest, jail time, and a criminal record for possession of up to one ounce of marijuana and replace them with a civil fine of up to $250. Under current Texas law, individuals found in possession of less than two ounces of marijuana can be arrested and given a criminal record, and they face up to six months in jail and a fine of up to $2,000. The Texas House Committee on Criminal Jurisprudence approved the measure last week.
“This is commonsense legislation that is intended to reduce government waste and improve public safety,” said Heather Fazio, Texas political director for the Marijuana Policy Project, which produced the ad on behalf of the coalition. “Voters want law enforcement officials to spend their time and resources addressing serious crimes, not arresting and jailing adults for simple marijuana possession. We hope the House will pass this important legislation before time runs out.”
Three out of five Texas voters (61%) support reducing the punishment for simple marijuana possession to a civil fine with no possibility of jail time, according to a September 2013 survey conducted by Public Policy Polling. Only 30% said they were opposed.
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Texans for Responsible Marijuana Policy is a broad coalition of organizations, activists, and community leaders dedicated to realizing effective, efficient, and evidence-based marijuana policies in Texas. For more information, visit http://www.TexasMarijuanaPolicy.org.
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Marijuana advocates are buying TV ad time in the four largest cities in Texas. The pro-pot spots started airing today and will run through midnight Thursday, the deadline for the Texas House to approve HB 507 and send it on to the Senate or snuff it out. J.D. Gins, the Executive Director of the Travis County Democrats and GOP consultant Matt Mackowiak talk to Mike Warrren about the bill and the ads.
AUSTIN, TEXAS — On a Wednesday night in early April, dozens of veterans with PTSD, several families of children with severe epilepsy, a wealthy suburban couple whose son’s life was ruined when he got caught smoking a roach, a Republican grandmother, a U.S. District judge, a professor from Houston, at least a dozen activists, a small handful of dedicated hippies and the guy who sells me pot walked into a basement hearing room in the annex of the Texas State Capitol building.
Posted on May 10, 2015 | By Chris Ladd
The campaign to legalize marijuana took a strange turn this week. A committee in the Texas House approved a bill that would remove the state’s prohibitions entirely. Procedural obstacles unique to the Texas Legislature mean that the bill will not likely make it to a vote in this session. Nonetheless their action is an unprecedented landmark, a sort of Reagan-in-Reykjavik moment for conservatives in the debate over the drug war. Here’s why.
Two Republicans joined three Democrats on the House’s Criminal Jurisprudence Committee to approve the sweeping proposal and send it to the House’s calendar committee. One of them is David Simpson, a Tea Party star who introduced the measure.
There are two other factors that make this scenario worth watching. First is Simpson’s reasoning. He introduces a rare touch of ideological consistency to a so-called “libertarian” movement that seems mostly interested in imposing Christian fundamentalist sharia. In an argument laced with more scriptural references than the average Sunday sermon, Simpson makes this unusually insightful observation in a blog post at the Texas Tribune:
You would think that our country’s history with alcohol prohibition — an era marked by bootlegging, organized crime, government corruption and a rise in crime in general — would have prevented us from making the same mistake again.
But our current “war on drugs” policies, though well intended, have accomplished the exact opposite, spurring a proliferation of ever-changing exotic designer drugs and a disregard for constitutional protections in the name of eliminating drugs at any cost. Just think of no-knock warrants, stop-and-frisk, civil asset forfeiture and billionaire drug lords.
In other words, a far right Tea Party fundamentalist examined a complex issue of national importance and reached a nuanced, intelligent conclusion that could form the basis of bipartisan policy-making. This does not happen every day. It deserves appreciation.
But for a serious political watcher this is still not the most interesting thing about the committee’s vote this week. What’s truly groundbreaking is that Simpson was joined in his yes vote on HB 2165 by Republican Rep. Todd Hunter from Corpus Christi.
By Rebecca McCray | Takepart.com
May 7, 2015 4:08 PM
Big hair. Big barbecue. Big sky. Big guns. As the saying goes, everything’s bigger in Texas—but the state hardly has an outsize reputation for progressive marijuana reform.
If this legislative session is any indication, that could be changing. While previous sessions have seen one or two marijuana-related bills introduced, 11 bills taking on various facets of marijuana prohibition were introduced this session—including an effort to decriminalize—and on Wednesday the most comprehensive among them survived the Texas House of Representatives Criminal Jurisprudence Committee.
Introduced and backed by Rep. David Simpson of Longview—a Republican, Christian legislator who is supported by the Tea Party—H.B. 2165 would legalize marijuana possession for both recreational and medicinal use and create a system for the legal sale of the plant. The bill will now move to a full floor debate and vote in the House.
While marijuana legalization may bring to mind more liberal states such as Colorado and Washington or a dorm room full of hippies, the movement in Texas—and elsewhere in the country—is increasingly backed by conservatives.
“From a fiscal perspective, most Republicans already think marijuana use is not a major risk to public safety,” Zoe Russell, assistant director of Texas-based Republicans Against Marijuana Prohibition, told TakePart. “That message resonates across the board.”
Inside an old restaurant a short walk from Allen’s Landing, the birthplace of Houston, the Pachyderm Club holds its luncheons.
The group is staunchly Republican, mostly older and Anglo, but with a few younger Asians and Hispanics in the mix. It could easily be mistaken for a small Rotary Club except for the prevalence of elephant lapel pins.
But the most surprising thing about the crowd is another kind of pin, worn by a few of the Pachyderm Club members. “RAMP” is the message, an acronym for Republicans Against Marijuana Prohibition.
The so-called “marijuana agenda” has seen a late spurt of success with the passage of three key bills out of a House committee and the Senate.
The bill with the best chance of getting out of both chambers this session is a small pilot project that would provide low-grade medical marijuana to those with intractable epilepsy. Parents who testified on the bill were vocal and passionate. That bill, Sen. Kevin Eltife’s Senate Bill 339, passed off the Senate floor, 26-5.
Heather Fazio of the Marijuana Policy Project said the idea that Texas, with so many conservative lawmakers, would pass a medical marijuana bill this session is huge. It also means Texas could join a growing number of states that would allow the use of marijuana for a limited range of medical uses, if it passes the House in time. The legislative session ends at the end of the month.