Bill Reducing Pot Penalties ‘Is Dead in the Texas Senate’ Claims Lt. Gov.
Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick ® says that despite the House win, a bill reducing penalties for possession of small amount of cannabis is wholly opposed by the state Senate.
The bill was introduced by El Paso Democrat Joe Moody during the pre-legislative sessions. If passed, the bill would move possession of one ounce or less of cannabis from a Class B to a Class C misdemeanor. This means that instead of facing jail time and a fine of up to $2,000 dollars, offenders would receive a simple $500 fine.
On Tuesday Moody’s bill was passed by the Texas House of Representatives. The bill’s success appears to have been short-lived however, as Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick ® stated in a tweet it will not get passed by the state Senate.
In the tweet, Patrick appears to reference Senate Criminal Justice Committee Chair Sen. John Whitmire’s (D) refusal to allow the bill a public hearing in the senate.
In response to Patrick’s statement, Moody said he was disappointed the two didn’t get to discuss the matter further.
“Mr. Patrick has been tweeting about this bill instead of giving us the courtesy of talking to us here in the House,” Moody said during the his bill’s final vote in the House. “Let’s vote this across the hall so they can get to work on the House’s priorities and so we can see how those priorities are respected as we consider Senate bills over here over the next few weeks.”
In order to have his bill passed by the House and align more with the desires of Texas Gov. Greg Abbott ® Moody has already had to make several concessions on his bill. The original bill called for possession of one ounce or less of cannabis to be punished with a $250 fine, and misdemeanor charges would have been laid only after the third offense.
Some advocates believe that there may yet be hope for the bill in the state Senate.
“Working through the legislative process means overcoming objection that some folks may have and working with them to find common ground,” Heather Fazio — director of Texans for Responsible Marijuana Policy — told The Texas Tribune. “That’s exactly what we did in the House yesterday and what the vote yesterday demonstrates…and we intend to bring that spirit to the Texas Senate.”
While state legislators struggle to loosen Texas’ oppressive cannabis regulations, lawmakers on the local level have already started to push ahead. District Attorneys for both of Texas’ biggest counties—Dallas and Harris (which contains the City of Houston) — are no longer prosecuting some marijuana offenses.