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Texas Lawmaker Optimistic About State Decriminalizing Marijuana

You might be surprised to learn this, but cannabis activists in Texas are more confident than ever about their prospects to decriminalize, and eventually legalize, the plant. Yes, Texas. Part of this is because of signals sent from political parties this summer when Democrats officially added expansion of the state’s extremely limited medical marijuana program to their party platform.

But if you want to know why Texan cannabis advocates are confident, you have to look across the aisle at state Republicans. That group made small waves this summer when they added marijuana decriminalization to their party platform. In addition, Texas Republicans now urge the federal government to reclassify cannabis from a Schedule 1 drug to a Schedule 2 drug.

Last year, state Rep. Joe Moody (D), who chairs the House Criminal Jurisprudence Committee, filed a marijuana civil penalties bill during the state’s last legislative sessions. It didn’t pass. But now Republicans have specifically stated they 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.” Now, Moody and other cannabis activists are more confident than ever.

“That certainly does give me a greater sense of hope heading into 2019,” Moody told the Texas Tribune.

Texan legislators should expect that civil penalties bill to resurface once again for state approval.

“Yes, civil penalties will be the first bill I file this coming session,” Moody told The Eagle. “It’s something that’s becoming more and more likely as it becomes more and more bipartisan. From day one, I’ve said it was an issue both parties can support, and now we’re seeing that in action. I’m optimistic.”

This does not mean Moody will push for legalization, however. For now he’s strictly focused on pushing decriminalization efforts in the state, because of the potential cost it will save the government.

“Legalization isn’t something I’ve proposed—although I would probably support it—and not something I think has a chance of passing,” Moody said. “Decriminalization in lieu of a civil penalty, however, would save us over $700 million a year. While it wouldn’t impact prison populations, it would decrease local costs by freeing space in county jails.”


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