All posts by Heather Fazio

Texas Legislature adjourns without reforming marijuana laws. Where’s the silver lining?

They failed to improve the law, but progress was made thanks to you!

During the 2017 legislative session, we saw unprecedented progress in our effort to reform Texas’ outdated and inhumane marijuana laws!

Medical Cannabis

Introduced in House and Senate 

Bipartisan support with 77 co-authors

Public Hearing (outstanding testimony!)

Passed House committee with 7-2 vote!

Scheduled for a vote in the House.

Decriminalization

Introduced in House and Senate

Bipartisan support with 41 co-authors

Public Hearing (outstanding testimony!)

Passed House committee with 4-2 vote!

Scheduled for a vote in the House.

Vote on by the House. (Beat by the clock.)

To bring about this historic change, advocates from around the state called, wrote, and visited with their legislators to express support for reform.

Texans from all corners of the Lone Star State filled the halls of our Capitol on lobby day and provided excellent testimony
during committee hearings.

We hosted training events, press conferences, educational exhibits and legislative briefings. 

We filmed key advocates and produced two videos, one featuring a Texas caregiver and the other featuring a Dallas police officer, which aired on television.

All of this work, executed with professionalism and passion, brought the reform movement closer than ever to our goal of repealing Texas’ failed policies of marijuana prohibition. Between sessions, we will continue educating our lawmakers, building relationships, empowering advocates, and publishing a voter guide so representatives can be held accountable.

We’re in it to win it, so let’s keep up the pressure!

Onward!

Texas Marijuana Policy Reform: Well fought, but beat by the clock…

Compassionate use and penalty reduction bills run out of time to advance. Let us thank those who stood for sensible policy.

 Our Texas Legislature convenes for only 140 days every other year. This session, we made tremendous strides forward toward more sensible marijuana policies in Texas. Unfortunately, the legislation we’ve been supporting didn’t make it before clock struck midnight last night, the deadline for House bills that have passed committee to be voted on in the House.

Please consider sending a quick thank you note to the legislators who championed marijuana law reform.

There is one final way for us to see reform this session: amendments. Many bills are still in play at the Texas Capitol. We’re working to identify bills that can be amended to include language that would change Texas’ marijuana laws in a meaningful way. Keep an eye out for action alerts if/ when this happens.

You can find a full summary of each marijuana policy-related bill here.

And, here’s a breakdown of what happened with the two bills that gained the most traction — HB 81, Chairman Joe Moody’s bill to reduce penalties for low-level possession to a civil fine and HB 2107, Rep. Eddie Lucio III’s bill to make the Compassionate Use Program more inclusive:

HB 81, Chairman Joe Moody’s bill to reduce penalties for low-level possession, was advanced by the Criminal Jurisprudence Committee on April 3 with a vote of 4-2. Unfortunately, Chairman Todd Hunter and the Calendars Committee declined to schedule the bill for a vote until the very last day possible, giving it little chance of making the deadline.

HB 2107, Rep. Eddie Lucio III’s bill to make the Compassionate Use Program more inclusive, earned the support of a majority of the Texas House of Representatives, with 77 Democrats and Republicans signing on as co-authors. This happened after an outstanding hearing where the committee heard testimony from witnesses ranging from mothers of sick children to a retired judge sharing the story of a family in his neighborhood that is illegally healing a toddler living with terminal disabilities. In spite of his own opposition to the bill, Chairman Four Price demonstrated exemplary character by bringing the bill up for a vote, which resulted in its passage with a supportive vote of 7-2 by the committee members.

Regrettably, the bill made it to the Calendars Committee just 1.5 hours too late, keeping it from being scheduled for a vote in the Texas House where it would have surely passed, thanks to the 77/150 co-authors of the bill.

While there certainly is cause for us to be disappointed, lawmakers and advocates alike worked hard this session and brought about unprecedented progress. Our work continues until session ends and then during the 18-month interim.

We won’t let up the pressure until Texas has an inclusive medical cannabis law and stops criminalizing marijuana consumers! We hope you won’t either.

Onward!

Texas Action Alert: HB 81 is scheduled for a vote — deadline for passage is midnight!

Call your representative now in support of HB 81!

Chairman Joe Moody’s House Bill 81 has been co-authored 40 representatives, both Democrat and Republican, from across the state. It’s scheduled for a vote late tonight, so your representative needs to hear from you now!

Please make a moment to make the call. Then, send a quick email to reiterate your support for this important legislation.

If passed, HB 81 could protect as many at 70,000 Texans (annually) from being arrested and prosecuted for low-level marijuana possession. Not only does it remove the threat of arrest and jail time, the bill also ensures a path for individuals to avoid a criminal record and the collateral consequences that come along with it.

The Legislature is embarrassingly behind on their agenda. If HB 81 is put forward for a vote, it will be very late tonight. The deadline for passage is midnight. You can watch the proceedings here.

Please call and then email your representative in support of House Bill 81!

HB 81 scheduled for vote by the Texas House — here’s how you can help!

Call your representative in support of sensible marijuana policy in Texas!

In the nick of time, Chairman Joe Moody’s House Bill 81 has been added to the agenda for consideration by the Texas House of Representatives tomorrow, Thursday, May 11. If passed, this legislation will eliminate the threat of arrest, jail time, and criminal record for first-, second-, and third-offense possession of small amounts of marijuana. (Thereafter, the penalty becomes a Class C Misdemeanor with an automatic opportunity for deferral and no jail.)

HB 81 will preserve valuable criminal justice resources and establish a more sensible policy for the possession of one ounce or less of marijuana. Call your representative now to share your support for this important legislation. (If you can’t call, send an email easily here.)

Texas arrests more than 60,000 people annually for the simple possession of marijuana, a substance that is safer than alcohol and tobacco.

This waste of resources can no longer be tolerated; call your representative today! Then, share this email with like-minded friends and family members.

Finally, please consider supporting our ongoing efforts in Texas with a contribution today.

Thank you for your great work to bring us to this historic moment. Let’s pass this bill!

Medical cannabis has unprecedented support in the Texas House. Now what?

Last Tuesday night, the Public Health committee considered public testimony in support of HB 2107 until nearly 2 a.m. Patients, including military veterans, caregivers, and medical professionals shared their stories and experiences with an attentive and thoughtful committee. The next day, the legislation gained significant traction, jumping from five to over 70 representatives signing on as either joint or co-authors. (Currently 77 co-authors.)

On Friday, the Public Health Committee who voted to advance HB 2107 with an historic vote of 7-2!

Now, the bill is in the hands of the Calendars Committee, which will decide if it gets a vote before the entire House of Representatives!

If passed into law, this bill will make the Compassionate Use Program more inclusive for patients with debilitating medical conditions. With bipartisan support, we are seeing unprecedented support for medical cannabis in the Texas House.

Here’s how you can help:

1) Contact your representative to express your support for safe and legal patient access to medical cannabis. Emails, calls, Tweets, and Facebook messages with them tagged are all great ways to politely ask for their support.

Email your representative easily here.
Find your representative’s phone number and a sample message here.

2) Email the Calendars Committee and ask them to add HB 2107 to the agenda for a vote. You can email them all easily here.

3) Share this page with your friends and family who support medical cannabis in Texas!

Texas: Medical cannabis advances with committee approval!

HB 2107, Texas’ medical cannabis bill, advances with an historic committee vote of 7-2. Contact your representative in support of the bill!

On Tuesday night, the Public Health committee considered public testimony in support of HB 2107 until nearly 2 a.m. Patients, including military veterans, caregivers, and medical professionals shared their stories and experiences with an attentive and thoughtful committee. The next day, the legislation gained significant traction, jumping from five to over 70 representatives signing on as either joint or co-authors.

Today, thanks to Chairman Price, the Public Health Committee voted to advance HB 2107 with an historic vote of 7-2! Please email your representative now to express your support of this important legislation.

Now, the bill will be considered by the Calendars Committee, which will decide if it gets a vote before the entire House of Representatives!

If passed into law, this bill will make the Compassionate Use Program more inclusive for patients with debilitating medical conditions. With bipartisan support, we are seeing unprecedented support for medical cannabis in the Texas House.

Contact your representative to express your support for safe and legal patient access to medical cannabis. Then, help us spread the word by sharing this email.

Thank you for your continued support — we’re making history! Great work, Texas, let’s keep up the pressure!

New Television Ad in Support of Bill to Reduce Marijuana Penalties in Texas Features a Dallas Police Officer

The ad — viewable now at http://bit.ly/2oZLpdi — will begin airing Friday, just days before the House of Representatives is expected to vote on HB 81, which would remove the threat of arrest, jail time, and a criminal record for possession of up to one ounce of marijuana

AUSTIN, Texas — A television ad in support of a bill to reduce marijuana penalties in Texas will begin airing Friday, just days before the state House of Representatives is expected to vote on the measure. It can be viewed now at http://bit.ly/2oZLpdi.

The 30-second spot features Nick Novello, an active duty police officer and 23-year veteran of the Dallas Police Department, and Heather Jackson of Houston, an ovarian cancer survivor who was arrested for possession of a small amount of marijuana in El Paso in 2007.

“Arresting people for marijuana possession does not make our communities any safer,” Novello says in the ad. “It’s a terrible waste of police resources.”

Jackson notes that she was found with less than one gram of marijuana and spent a total of four days in jail. She was initially jailed for two days. She was forced to spend an additional two days in jail because she violated the terms of her probation by traveling from El Paso to Houston for treatment at MD Anderson Cancer Center.

“It has affected so many different things in my life,” Jackson says in the ad. She now has a criminal record that has prevented her from getting a teaching job.

Novello calls harsh penalties “unreasonable” and says, “Criminalizing people for marijuana possession does far more harm to the community than marijuana itself. It’s time for a more sensible approach.”

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. There were 61,749 marijuana possession arrests in Texas in 2015, and there were more than 418,000 from 2010-2015, according to the Texas Department of Public Safety.

The ad concludes by urging viewers to tell their legislators to support HB 81, a bipartisan bill that 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. A fourth offense would result in a misdemeanor punishable by only a fine. The measure passed out of the House Criminal Jurisprudence Committee last month and is expected to receive a full vote in the House next week.

The ad is scheduled to air through Monday in Austin and through the weekend in Dallas-Fort Worth and Houston on CNN, Fox News Channel, and MSNBC.

“It is not just the strong majority of voters who support reducing possession penalties in Texas, but also the police officers who are charged with enforcing these laws,” said Heather Fazio, Texas political director for the Marijuana Policy Project, which produced the ad on behalf of Texans for Responsible Marijuana Policy. “Law enforcement officials have more important things to do than arrest people, drag them to court, and throw them in jail for possessing a small amount of marijuana. It’s unfair and a waste of resources.”

More than two-thirds of Texans (68%) support reducing the penalty for low-level marijuana possession to a citation and $250 fine, according to a June 2015 University of Texas/Texas Tribune poll. Only 26% are opposed.

# # #

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 https://www.TexasMarijuanaPolicy.org.

Texas: Medical cannabis gains significant traction!

Watch our new video, and contact Chairman Price!

After an outstanding hearing last night, Rep. Eddie Lucio III’s bill to make the Compassionate Use Program more inclusive has caught fire!

This morning over 70 representatives — including dozens of Republicans — signed on as co-authors of HB 2107, giving medical cannabis momentum to advance in the Texas House. Chairman Four Price, who was thoughtful and attentive throughout the entire five-hour hearing, is the sole decision-maker at this point in the process. Please contact him now to encourage him to call a vote on this important bill!

Then, check out our new video highlighting families’ plights. It features Christy Zartler, the primary caregiver for her daughter, Kara, who suffers from severe autism and extremely self-injurious behavior. Please watch and share this video.

Timing is critical since we’re approaching the end of the legislative session. Chairman Price must take action this week for the bill to have a shot at passing into law. Please take action now to support HB 2107 and the countless patients who can benefit from safe and legal access to medical cannabis.

Please share this with friends or family members who support marijuana law reform in Texas. Thank you!

TV ad featuring Dallas cop — donate now to see it on air!

We produced an ad in support of HB 81. Will you donate now so we can get it on TV?

Texas House Bill 81 would eliminate the criminal penalties associated with marijuana possession in Texas. The bill is on its way to the House floor for an historic vote, but we need your help.

We’ve produced a television ad featuring Nick Novello, a Dallas Police Officer who supports ending Texas’ war on marijuana consumers. We want to air the ad across the state to generate support for HB 81, but can only do so if supporters chip in to make it happen.

Will you donate today? All funds will be used to air the ad. (Our deadline is Monday!)

Please help us reduce penalties for low-level marijuana possession. Donate today! Then, share this email with supportive friends and family members.

Texas: Medical cannabis bill scheduled for a hearing — how can you help?

Tuesday, May 2: Public Health Committee to Consider HB 2107

House Bill 2107, authored with bipartisan support by Rep. Eddie Lucio, III (D), Rep. Jason Isaac (R), Rep. James White (R), and Rep. Ron Simmons (R) would make the Compassionate Use Program more inclusive for patients with debilitating medical conditions. Seriously ill Texans deserve safe and legal access to medical cannabis if their doctors think they could benefit. The bill will be considered by the Public Health Committee on Tuesday, May 2.

Call to Action!

1)      Contact your legislators in support of HB 2107!

2)       To show your support for the bill, come to the Texas State Capitol and sign up in support of HB 2107.  You can register your support starting at 8 a.m. and until the conclusion our hearing. (Click here for instructions and a video demo.) We will have a room reserved where you can join us. Room TBA.

3)        Testimony can be provided several ways: written and submitted via committee binder (email your one page testimony attached as a PDF to [email protected] — only one page PDFs will be printed and included in the binder), written/printed (12 copies) and submitted in person on the day of the hearing, or verbally to the committee (2 minutes). If you email the clerk, please make sure that your testimony is attached to your email so they can easily print your testimony for distribution.

When visiting the Capitol, please always dress professionally.

We will have a large volume of witnesses in addition to long agendas before the House Floor and Public Health Committee, so unless you have a qualifying condition or are a medical professional, it is best to simply register your support. If you plan to stay and testify in person, please let us know ([email protected]) so we can coordinate testimony, and please bring 12 copies of your printed testimony to submit to the committee clerk.

Unable to travel to Austin? You can still help! Contact your legislators in support of sensible marijuana policy. Also, follow this Facebook event for live updates and a link to the live stream.