Marijuana reform has been in the headlines for many states this year, but what’s currently gaining the most attention is the great state of Texas. At this moment, there are no less than 11 bills related to marijuana up for consideration by Texas lawmakers.
While it may be shocking to see a state as traditionally conservative (even straight up backwards on many issues) making moves towards legalization, arguing marijuana’s benefits by reason of God (it’s natural from God’s good earth, so who are we do judge it?) and fiscal benefits (tax revenue, revenue, revenue) actually seems to be working on a good amount conservative Texans.
As we reported Monday, a legislative committee just passed a bill to pave the way for full legalization in Texas thanks to Rep. David Simpson (R-Longview) arguing the “Christian case” for weed. Furthermore, the state Senate officially passed a bill to allow patients with epilepsy access to medicinal marijuana oils just last Thursday.
The caped-crusading Marijuana Policy Project is not going to stop there. The organization is sponsoring HB 507, along with Rep. Joe Moody (D), which goes beyond either of the previously mentioned bills by presenting a step towards legalization that actually has a chance of passing (unlike the God argument) and affecting more than just a small demographic of people in need. As of now, the penalty with being caught for less than two ounces of marijuana can be up to six months in jail with a fine of $2,000. HB 507 would reduce the penalty for possessing less than one ounce to a $250 fine with no jail time. The bill was approved by the Texas House Committee on Criminal Jurisprudence last week, but if the House does not approve it by midnight Thursday, it will not make it to the Senate.
HB 507 is not a Hail Mary pass for legalization; instead, it is an attempt to solve some of the biggest issues of the war on drugs in a way that might not seem too scary to conservative, stuck-in-their-ways lawmakers. According to the American Civil Liberties Union, Texas is second in the nation for marijuana arrests, and blacks are twice as likely to be arrested for possession as whites (a pattern we are no stranger to in this country). Especially in a state as infamous for racial crimes and strife as Texas, decriminalizing small possession to a much smaller fine with no jail time could be the difference between a decent, functional life and a spiral of crime kicked off by prison time or the (understandable) inability to pay a major fine for something as simple as medicating.
To help push HB 507, the Marijuana Policy Project has launched a TV ad that will run on major channels in Texas up until the Thursday midnight deadline. The ad features retired Texas police officer and narcotics detective Russell Jones, who compares the dangers of marijuana to alcohol.
“I know of no instance in my entire career where someone was acting out under the influence of marijuana,” Jones says. “People under the influence of alcohol are much more problematic. Law enforcement officials have more important things to do with their time than arrest people for marijuana possession.”
The ad will run repeatedly on CNN, ESPN, and Fox News Channel, and we can only hope that Texans will listen to a mustachioed, tweed-lapelled officer of their own and recognize the inevitability of legalization sooner than later, before more people are harmed by this ridiculous war on a harmless, God-given plant.