Time ran out in the Texas House late Thursday on a proposed law that would have reduced the penalty for possession of small amounts of marijuana in the state to below that of most traffic tickets.
A midnight deadline passed without the full House taking up House Bill 81 for initial consideration, meaning it and other House-originated bills remaining on its calendar are now dead as stand-alone legislation.
Both lead sponsors of HB 81 – state Reps. Joe Moody, D-El Paso, and Jason Isaac, R-Dripping Springs – warned earlier this week that they thought it unlikely the House would get to it by the midnight deadline because of a jam-packed House schedule. They said they planned to look for ways in the final two weeks of the legislative session to resurrect it, such as by tacking it on as an amendment to another bill.
A debate and vote by the full House over the measures in HB 81, which called for possession of an ounce or less of marijuana to be a civil, not criminal, offense, would be momentous for advocates of lifting marijuana prohibitions in the state.
Texas last reconsidered its marijuana penalties in 1973, when it lowered the punishment for possession of small amounts from a felony to a misdemeanor. Meanwhile, 28 states and Washington, D.C., have broadly legalized marijuana for medical or adult recreational purposes.
HB 81 called for Texas law enforcement officers to write tickets for possession of an ounce or less of marijuana instead of making arrests. Under the bill, people issued those tickets would pay fines of up to $250, do community service or attend substance-abuse classes, but wouldn’t suffer the permanent stigma of having a criminal record and wouldn’t crowd local courts and jails.
Current Texas law categorizes possession of two ounces or less of marijuana as a Class B misdemeanor, punishable by up to a $2,000 fine and six months in jail.
Although HB 81 died on the vine when time ran out late Thursday, it advanced farther than any of the other high-profile marijuana-related bills this session by simply making it onto the calendar of the full House.
Two other marijuana-related bills — HB 2107 and HB 3587 — cleared House committees but died as stand-alone proposals earlier this week because they were never put on the calendar. Like other bills that suffered similar fates, however, attempts still could be made to revive them by tacking them onto still-viable legislation as amendments.
HB 2107 would have made marijuana broadly legal in the state for medical purposes, and HB 3587 would have allowed hemp to be grown and marketed in Texas for industrial uses under a federal pilot program.
Source: 420Intel – Politics