AUSTIN, Texas (May 8, 2015) – A Texas bill that would remove all penalties for the possession and distribution of marijuana from the state criminal code, effectively blocking the federal prohibition on the same, passed through a state House committee this week.
Introduced by Rep. David Simpson (R-Longview), House Bill 2165 (HB2165) repeals current provisions under the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure, the Health and Safety Code, and Tax Code to end the state-level prohibition on marijuana. Since FBI statistics show that approximately 99 of 100 arrests for marijuana are done under state and not federal law, passage would effectively thwart federal attempts to keep the plant illegal as well.
HB2165 differs from other marijuana-related reforms that are popping up in state legislatures across the country. Rather than setting up a framework for decriminalization or a program to tax and regulate the substance, HB2165 simply removes every mention of marijuana from the criminal code. If the bill passes, aside from the prohibition on selling to minors, the state of Texas will look at marijuana similar to the way it does lettuce, tomatoes, or any other benign plant being consumed and distributed lawfully in the marketplace.
“I don’t believe that when God made marijuana he made a mistake that government needs to fix,” Rep. Simpson said in a TribTalk op/ed that was published shortly after his legislation was introduced.
The bill could save the state almost a quarter-billion dollars as well. The fiscal note for the bill was released on April 8. It discusses various areas where the state would save significant funds by passing the bill. This includes the thousands of people in the “criminal or juvenile justice system” each year, and a “reduced workload in local criminal courts and some reduction in expenses.”
After an amendment was added to the bill ensuring that it would still be illegal to sell marijuana to minors, HB2165 passed through the House Criminal Jurisprudence Committee on a 5-2 vote.
The passage of HB2165 would be a huge step in the right direction, and send a powerful statement. A state like Texas passing a legalization bill could be a real game changer. It could start the trend of more red states embracing the cannabis revolution, which would be cataclysmic blow to the federal drug warriors.
Activists should embrace this golden opportunity to enact a more sensible marijuana policy in the Lone Star State. Full-blown legalization is on its way throughout the entire country whether the prohibitionists like it or not. Measures like HB2165 can help grease the wheels on our way toward that inevitable goal!
The bill will now move to the House Calendars committee for scheduling on the House floor. If it not scheduled and passed by the end of this week, the bill would be effectively dead for 2015.