Stephen Carter 2019-03-09
The deadline has passed for submitting bills to the 2019 Texas legislative session, and this year marks a record for the most legislation filed pertaining to marijuana and hemp. Subjects run the gamut of medical cannabis, penalty reduction, hemp, concentrates, drug testing, and legalization.
With 59 bills by 47 legislators, the biggest task for advocates may be in keeping focus on bills which offer what they deem to be the best options and have the best chances of moving forward. One example would be HB 63, which would make marijuana possession of an ounce or less a civil penalty capped at a $250 fine. This would no longer be considered as a conviction, meaning no criminal record.
Unlike previous sessions, HB 63 shot out of the gate this year and has already had a hearing. It also has garnered the official support of 21 legislators as authors and coauthors. Numerous supporters showed up to testify earlier this week which included patients, veterans, judges, district attorneys, law enforcement, and addiction specialists, while its opponents primarily consisted of law enforcement who at times were scolded by members of the committee for what were deemed to be inaccurate statements. At one point a law enforcement officer testified that marijuana is the biggest public safety issue. A recap of the hearing can be found here.
Rep. Joe Moody (D-El Paso), who authored HB 63, has championed the same bill for three sessions now. In 2017 it passed out of committee but was never scheduled for a hearing on the floor of the House before the legislative session ended. This year it has the potential to go the distance after Gov. Greg Abbott stated his desire to reduce the penalty for possession of small amounts of marijuana during his re-election bid