Although there was a great deal of hope that the Texas Legislature would take a bold leap in 2017 and decriminalize the possession of marijuana, it appears that people are going to continue getting jammed up for this non-violent offense for at least another year.
According to a report from the Statesman, the House of Representatives failed to give a marijuana decriminalization measure (House Bill 81) any consideration in the eleventh hour of the legislative session, killing it and the rest of the bills on the roster that got the chance to reach the chamber floor.
Lawmakers now have no choice but to try again in 2019.
There was speculation in the weeks leading up to the end of session that the issue of decriminalization would not make it before the full House. Representatives Joe Moody and Jason Isaac, the bill’s primary sponsors, warned that the House schedule was so crammed full of proposals that they would have to get extremely creative in order to sneak it in.
The marijuana decriminalization bill would have been modest, but beneficial, reform for the Lone Star State. It simply called for the elimination of criminal penalties for anyone caught with up to an ounce of marijuana. So, instead of jail time, the bill called for offenders to pay a fine of $250 or do community service.
But lawmakers have been sandbagging this issue for decades now. In fact, the last time Texas gave any serious consideration to how it handles marijuana offenders was more than 40 years ago, when the legislative brass thought it would be beneficial to reduce the penalty for this offense from a felony to a misdemeanor. But in all of that time, from Nixon to Trump, almost a full political circle, lawmakers have been unable to get onboard with the concept of treating simple pot possession as a civil infraction.
While the issue is dead this year, marijuana reform advocates believe the time will soon come when Texas no longer puts pot offenders on the cross. That’s because, according to the Statesman, House Bill 81 advanced further than any of the other marijuana–related measure introduced this year.
But this also means that every single cannabis bill failed this year in the Texas legislature. In our eyes, that’s definitely not progress, especially considering that most Texans no longer support criminalizing the herb.
The latest poll from the University of Texas and the Texas Tribune shows that 68 percent of Texas’ population supports decriminalization.