Where do the Candidates Stand on Marijuana Policy? | Texas HD 148 Special Election

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.

After decades of service, Rep. Jessica Farrar (D) has retired, triggering a special election in Texas House District 148. Fifteen candidates have offered to serve. We asked each candidate the following questions:

1) Do you support statewide decriminalization (penalty reduction) for possession of small amounts of marijuana (1oz. or less)?

2) Do you support expanding the Compassionate Use Program to put Texas on par with the 33 states that currently allow safe and legal access for patients with debilitating medical conditions and a doctor’s approval?

3) Do you support legalizing adult (21+) use of marijuana in Texas, replacing the illicit market with well-regulated cultivators and dispensaries?

(Complete survey responses below.)

Candidates listed in alphabetical order.

Rob Block (D)

Decriminalization of Small Amounts: Certainly. Criminalization of a substance that is less dangerous than others that are legal, such as alcohol and tobacco, has led to a disastrous increase in the number of incarcerated people. We need to keep families together and lives intact. Texas must end its practice of punitive policies against those who even possess just small amounts of marijuana.

Expanding Medicinal Access: The Compassionate Use Program must be expanded. Many of us are lucky that we will not have to encounter the pain and suffering that comes with some of the most debilitating illnesses on the planet. I appreciate the legislature’s decision to create the Compassionate Use Program in 2015 to alleviate the anguish of those who are afflicted with these diseases. However, the state must do more.

Legalization of Adult Use:
Legalization, as well as the expungement of those who have been brought into the criminal justice system due to possession, are critical pieces of legislation that I would support as a representative. I was disappointed by the Senate’s unwillingness this previous session to keep serious marijuana and criminal justice reform from reaching Governor Abbott’s desk. I look forward to advocating for marijuana legalization in this state.

Additional Comments: As a first responder, using public safety resources to target marijuana use is a very bad use of our limited resources. Marijuana is much less likely to cause health problems than many other drugs and legal pharmaceuticals. With the 2019 Texas Legislature’s passage of HB1325, enforcement of criminal statutes against Texans is now extremely costly for law enforcement to process, and it makes it a great time to simply proceed with decriminalizing marijuana possession.

Website: https://blockfortexas.com/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/BlockForTexas/
Email: rob@blockfortexas.com

Chris Carmona (I)

Decriminalization of Small Amounts: Yes
Expanding Medicinal Access: Yes
Legalization of Adult Use: Yes
Additional Comments: None.

Website: http://www.chriscarmona.com/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/CarmonaForTexas/
Email: chris@chriscarmona.com

Carol Denson (D)

Decriminalization of Small Amounts: Yes
Expanding Medicinal Access: Yes
Legalization of Adult Use: Yes
Additional Comments: I support all four of these policies. Thank you for your sensible work!

Website: http://www.caroldensonfortexas.org
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/caroldensonfortexas
Email: caroldenson@yahoo.com

Anna Eastman (D)

Decriminalization of Small Amounts: Yes
Expanding Medicinal Access: Yes
Legalization of Adult Use: Yes

Additional Comments: My biggest concern is the number of people of color in prison over possession of small amounts of marijuana. I would also support a reversal of those convictions, release and restitution for time spent in jail.

Website: https://voteannaeastman.com/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/anna.eastman
Email: annae67@gmail.com

Adrian Garcia (D)

Decriminalization of Small Amounts: Absolutely. Marijuana prohibition has been outdated for far too long – masses are locked up and billions of taxpayer dollars are wasted consequently. These nonsensical laws continue to attack our most vulnerable low-income families and communities of color. I believe our state should listen to its constituents and members of the House in moving to decriminalize small possessions. By decriminalizing, we can assist in helping clear the backlog and overwhelm of cases our local authorities are faced with and ensure that funds are being allocated for actual violent crimes and offenses. Keeping these low-level offenses off the table can reduce the number of arrests, court costs, and incarceration and can shift the focus of our forces to keeping communities safe from actual crimes.

Expanding Medicinal Access: We must trust our medical community in deciding if and when a patient can benefit from the use of non-smokable forms of cannabis. Restricting the use of medical cannabis for only a handful of conditions places yet another burden on patients and families who are already struggling as a result of debilitating conditions. Our current “Compassionate” Use Program is too narrow. We need to expand measures to allow doctors to make the calls on what conditions can benefit from cannabis, allow doctors to treat medical cannabis like any other medicine, and removed the percentage cap on the amount of THC that medical cannabis products can contain. Doctors know their patients best and we need to ensure that they can focus on providing adequate care without trap restrictions.

Legalization of Adult Use: Most of our state supports marijuana reform because the prohibition has been a disaster, from wasting billions of dollars, unjustly harming many lives, to fostering racial discriminatory policies, it is just wrong. Whether people decide to use marijuana for a specific condition or simply for recreational use, we should implement regulations for legal dispensaries and replace our multi-billion-dollar funded illegal black market. Legalization can bring about various boosts to our state economy, from using the sin tax to increase funding into our public-school systems to creating cultivating and growth opportunities for local farmers. It is time to legalize marijuana.

Additional Comments: Our state is falling behind on bringing about transformative changes when we should be leading. The time to responsibly legalize marijuana is now.

Website: https://www.adrianfortexas.com
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/AdrianforTexas/
Email: adrianfortexas@gmail.com

Dr. Terah Isaacson (D)

Decriminalization of Small Amounts: Yes, Further, in the anticipation of legalization of marijuana in Texas I support the immediate dedication of resources so that counties shall begin to proactively expunge conviction records of citizens of the state of Texas with non-violent marijuana offenses of 1 oz or less.

Expanding Medicinal Access: Yes, However, I believe this to be a half measure which I will fully support only if all other significant efforts toward legalization have been met with failure. I fully support brining Texas on par with 33 other states on this issue, but I far prefer making Texas a front-running state that embraces a full legalization, regulation, and taxation plan for cannabis. Let’s make Texas the next and best state to lead the nation in marijuana legalization.

Legalization of Adult Use:
Yes, In addition to eliminating the black market for marijuana and freeing law enforcement resources from the burden of marijuana drug enforcement, communities hardest hit by the war on drugs must not be shut out from benefitting from the profits of legal cannabis. Further, an in depth survey of all recreational markets in the US and Canada would be used to determine the appropriate taxation percentage that would both encourage market participation and tourism without discouraging purchases.

Additional Comments: I look forward to hearing about how me can responsibly bring marijuana to Texas!

Website: https://www.docfortx148.com/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/docfortx148
Email: terah.isaacson@docfortx148.com

Lui LaRotta (R)

Decriminalization of Small Amounts: Yes
Expanding Medicinal Access: Yes
Legalization of Adult Use: Yes

Additional Comments: I’ve been a long time activist in RAMP, Republican Liberty Caucus and the Houston Young Republicans, advocating in Austin for medical cannabis and criminal justice reform. Government shouldn’t come in between doctors and patients, it should allow consenting adults to consume cannabis products responsibility, and should cease in furthering misinformation on cannabis.

Website: https://luislarottafortexas.com/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/LuisLaRottaforTexas
Email: info@luislarottafortexas.com

Michele Leal (D)

Decriminalization of Small Amounts: Yes
Expanding Medicinal Access: Yes
Legalization of Adult Use: Yes
Additional Comments: None

Website: https://lealfor148.com
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/lealfor148/
Email: michele@lealfor148.com

Ryan McConnico (R)

Decriminalization of Small Amounts: Yes
Expanding Medicinal Access: Yes
Legalization of Adult Use: Maybe, it’s complicated.
Additional Comments: Legalization should be left up to the voters. Put it on the ballot and see what happens.

Website: https://www.mcconnico.org/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/TexansforRyanMcConnico/
Email: Ryan@McConnico.org

Penny Morales Shaw (D)

Decriminalization of Small Amounts: Yes
Expanding Medicinal Access: Yes
Legalization of Adult Use: Yes
Additional Comments: None.

Website: https://voteforpenny.com/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/VotePennyShaw/
Email: penyshawhtx@gmail.com

Mia Mundy (D)

Decriminalization of Small Amounts: Yes
Expanding Medicinal Access: Yes
Legalization of Adult Use: Yes
Additional Comments: None.

Website: https://www.miamundyfortx.com
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/MiaMundyTX/
Email: miamundy@gmail.com

Alva Treviño (D)

Decriminalization of Small Amounts: Yes
Expanding Medicinal Access: Yes
Legalization of Adult Use: Yes

Additional Comments: In June I attended the MJBiz Next Conference in New Orleans to learn more about the cannabis and hemp industry. I am a strong advocate for cannabis and hemp normalization and the repeal of discriminatory laws on the subject.

Website: http://www.alvafortexas.com/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/alvafortexas
Email: alva@alvafortexas.com

Chris Watt (D)

Decriminalization of Small Amounts: Yes
Expanding Medicinal Access: Yes
Legalization of Adult Use: Yes

Additional Comments: It is imperative that the legislature pass meaningful marijuana legislation for the residents of Texas. While the state slightly expanded access this past session, we must work to expand access for full medical marijuana use, just as 33 other states have already done. We must also work to decriminalize marijuana and get hard working Texans out of the prison system and back into their communities.

My 18 years of experience as a complex commercial litigation attorney set me apart from my opponents. I am a passionate and effective advocate for my clients, and I will bring that same passion and those same advocacy skills to represent the best interests of every resident of HD 148. Furthermore, to be an effective commercial litigator you must approach each case strategically and find ways to use the rules of civil procedure to your advantage. I will bring that same strategic approach to each legislative session in Austin and will work to pass meaningful marijuana legislation for the State of Texas.

Website: https://wattfortexas.com/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/WattForTexas
Email: info@wattfortexas.com

Unresponsive Candidates

Anna Nuñez: Anna@AnnaForTexas.com
Kendra Yarbrough Camarena: elect.kyc@gmail.com

Election Information

Election Day is Tuesday, November 5, 2019
Early Voting: October 21 – November 1, 2019

Find information about where to vote here: https://www.votetexas.gov/voting/where.html

Thank you for making marijuana law reform a priority when you cast your vote on November 5!

Texas Marijuana Policy Background

Medical Cannabis
In 2015, Texas established the Compassionate Use Program, which allows limited access to low-THC (.5% THC or less) medical cannabis. The program was minimally expanded in 2019 and advocacy efforts continue with aims of making this program more inclusive.

Decriminalization/Penalty Reduction
All political parties agree that penalties for low-level marijuana possession (1oz. or less) should be reduced to remove the threat of arrest, jail time, and criminal record. Last session, the House passed a measure to achieve these objectives, but was stalled in the Senate.

Legalization (Adult Use 21+)
Texas public opinion in support of repealing marijuana prohibition has recently hit a plurality, but most lawmakers have been resistant to discussions about legalizing and regulating cannabis for adult use. It’s expected that this aspect of marijuana law reform will be getting more attention in future legislative sessions.