Despite the hardline rhetoric of a vocal minority of prohibitionists, support for cannabis reform is growing in every corner of the country. There is arguably no surer sign of this than the fact that the Republican party in one of the country's most conservative states just officially endorsed the decriminalization of cannabis.
At this weekend's Texas Republican party convention, state delegates voted to approve several additions to their official platform, including support for decriminalization of low-level marijuana possession charges, as well as expanding the state's medical marijuana program. The party has also declared its support for legal hemp and recommended that the federal government change the legal classification of cannabis.
"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 party's new platform states, according to Forbes. Anyone busted with two or fewer ounces of weed in the Lone Star state can currently face up to six months in jail and a $2,000 fine.
"Having the conversation here at the convention, that's going to help us keep up the momentum that we've earned over the last several years," Heather Fazio, coalition coordinator for Texans for Responsible Marijuana Policy, said to Westword. "Having the position of decriminalizing the possession of small amounts of marijuana as an official plank in the Republican Party of Texas platform is going to help us tremendously with earning the support of lawmakers."
State lawmakers already passed a "cite and release" policy for cannabis possession and other crimes back in 2007, but the law allows individual jurisdictions to choose whether or not to implement the policy, and only a small number of cities have chosen to do so. Even in jurisdictions that have chosen to do so, the policy has done little to stop the disproportionate enforcement of cannabis laws against minorities, as individuals are still assigned court dates, and anyone who misses these dates is subject to being jailed.
The GOP has also endorsed the expansion of the state's Compassionate Use Act, an extremely limited medical cannabis program that only allows patients with intractable epilepsy to use CBD-based treatments. Last year, lawmakers proposed a bill to expand the state's MMJ program, but were unable to push the bills through before the end of the legislative session. The Republican platform now officially supports legislation allowing doctors to "determine the appropriate use of cannabis to certified patients," Forbes reports.
Texas Republicans have also officially voiced their support for the federal reclassification of cannabis. The drug is currently classified as a Schedule I drug under the Controlled Substances Act, a category reserved for dangerous drugs with no medical value. The party has recommended that cannabis be moved to Schedule II, where it will coexist with drugs that are considered dangerous but medically necessary, like methadone or oxycodone.
"What this demonstrates is that even the most conservative Texans among us are starting to look at new approaches to cannabis and starting to educate themselves about the fact that prohibition has failed," Fazio told Westword. "This is a medicine for many people." Fazio's organization, along with numerous other advocacy groups like NORML and the Marijuana Policy Project, have been fighting to drum up support for cannabis reform in the Lone Star state for years now, and the Republican party's official endorsement of these new policies is a testament to their success.