As HB 81 nears a committee vote, the marijuana decriminalization measure has hardly encountered any resistance. Flickr/Tanjila Ahmed
Marijuana decriminalization used to be a polarizing political issue in Texas. It might still be, but lately it’s easier to find weed in the Capitol than it is to find people there who openly oppose decriminalizing it.
This week, the House Criminal Jurisprudence Committee considered House Bill 81, a measure that would make possessing an ounce or less of marijuana a civil offense rather than a Class B misdemeanor. At its first hearing on Monday, nearly 30 people testified in support of the bill, authored by committee chair Joe Moody, D-El Paso. Only one person — Bobby Bland, the district attorney for Ector County — spoke in opposition.
Vice Chair Todd Hunter, R-Corpus Christi, took note. “I heard everybody else testify for, so I’m guessing Ector County is the opposition because I have not heard from anybody else,” he said.
The committee, which consists of four Republicans and three Democrats, has yet to vote on the measure. In order to move HB 81 past its first legislative hurdle, Moody will need at least one Republican vote.
A rift is growing in the Republican Party between the old guard and the new, between those clinging to the tough-on-crime days of the past and those embracing the new smart-on-crime conservative stance.
John Baucum, chair of the Texas Young Republicans Federation, supports HB 81 and wasn’t surprised by the testimony turnout. He said