Bipartisan support grows and advocates, including several former members of law enforcement, prepare to testify in support of reduced penalties for low-level marijuana possession
AUSTIN -Today at the Capitol, the House Criminal Jurisprudence Committee will hold a hearing on Rep. Joe Moody’s House Bill 63, which would institute a civil penalty for low-level marijuana possession. If passed, those caught with one ounce or less would be fined $250, but would face no jail or criminal record. The proposal aims to conserve valuable criminal justice resources and eliminate the collateral consequences of a criminal conviction.
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“The lasting effects of a criminal record can be devastating, causing far more harm than marijuana itself ever could,” says Heather Fazio, director of Texans for Responsible Marijuana Policy. “Regardless of political affiliation, Texans overwhelmingly agree that it’s time to change our state’s harsh marijuana laws.”
Moody’s bill already has bipartisan support, with four co-authors. Conservative support for reform has grown rapidly in recent years and at their state convention last year, Republicans opted to take a stand on marijuana law reform. Platform plank #107 states, “We support a change in the law to make it a civil, and not a criminal, offense for legal adults only to possess one ounce or less of marijuana for personal use, punishable by a fine of up to $100, but without jail time.” The plank passed with more than 80% support.
“Texas House Bill 63 offers a glimmer of hope based on our current knowledge of marijuana research,” says Jay Hall, Retired Houston Police Lieutenant. “This bill also reflects that we are smart on crime with respect to our morality and ethics when we see the devastation that previous marijuana laws have done, especially to communities of color.”
At great cost to taxpayers, nearly 65,000 Texans were arrested for marijuana possession in 2017. Senior District Judge, John Delaney, is a long-time advocate for reform. In his testimony supporting HB 63, Judge Delaney puts these numbers into perspective: “To understand the magnitude of this volume of arrests, consider that it is greater than the number of arrests for murder, manslaughter, rape, aggravated assault, robbery, burglary, motor vehicle theft, arson, fraud, and embezzlement, ALL COMBINED!”
“Having spent the last 25 years working within the Texas Criminal Justice System, I have seen first-hand the negative impact our marijuana laws have on people arrested and charged with simple possession,” says Danny Clancy, Former Criminal District Court Judge in Dallas County. Arresting and prosecuting peaceful, hardworking, tax paying Texas citizens, who possess small amounts of marijuana, as criminal defendants, is an unnecessary strain on limited resources earmarked for law enforcement.”
WHO: Texas House Criminal Jurisprudence Committee
WHAT: Committee Hearing on HB 63, Rep. Moody’s bill to reduce penalties for low-level marijuana possession
WHEN: Monday, March 4, 2019 at 2:00pm
WHERE: Texas State Capitol, Room E2.0120
Witnesses Expected to Testify in Support of HB 63:
Julie Stone, Former Prosecutor
Jay Hall, Retired Houston Police Lieutenant
Bryon Adinoff, MD, addiction psychiatrist
Katie Neill, Baker Institute at Rice University
John Delaney, Senior District Judge
Nicholas Hudson, ACLU of Texas
John Baucum, Republicans Against Marijuana Prohibition
Jason Vaughn, Young Republican Federation of Texas
Texans for Responsible Marijuana Policy is a nonprofit advocacy organization working with a broad political coalition to advance sensible marijuana law reform in Texas.