Last Update: February 17, 2014
Texans increasingly open to improving state marijuana laws
Both the current leadership and candidates for prominent political offices are increasingly calling for marijuana policy reform in the Lone Star State. On January 23, Gov. Rick Perry called for the state to move toward decriminalizing small amounts of marijuana. He was quoted as saying that "[A]fter 40 years of the war on drugs, I can’t change what happened in the past. What I can do as the governor of the second largest state in the nation is to implement policies that start us toward a decriminalization and keeps people from going to prison and destroying their lives, and that’s what we’ve done over the last decade."
On February 11, gubernatorial candidate Wendy Davis took marijuana policy reform in Texas one step further and indicated her support not only for decriminalizing small amounts of marijuana, but also for medical marijuana for seriously ill patients. Michael Fjetland, Texas candidate for U.S. Senate, indicated his support for a taxed and regulated system similar to Colorado’s.
A poll commissioned by the Marijuana Policy Project in Texas shows 61% of the voters support reducing penalties for the possession of a small amount of marijuana from a criminal offense to a civil penalty similar to a traffic ticket. Fifty-eight percent of voters support access to medical marijuana, and another 58% support a taxed and regulated system similar to those in Washington and Colorado. The people want change, and it appears that politicians in Texas are taking notice. If you agree that marijuana should be taxed and regulated in Texas, be sure to let your state representative and senator know!
Texas’s marijuana laws
In Texas, a conviction for possession of up to two ounces of marijuana can result in a jail sentence of up to six months and a fine of up to $2,000. According to reports of arrests by state law enforcement to the FBI, Texas made over 70,000 arrests in 2011 for marijuana-related offenses, 98% of which were for possession. During the same year, an astonishing 90% of all reported burglaries — including home invasions — and 88% of all motor vehicle thefts went unsolved by law enforcement. Also alarming is the fact that African Americans are more than twice as likely to be arrested for marijuana possession in Texas as whites, despite similar marijuana use rates. For more information on how the war on marijuana is often waged unequally between races, check out this ACLU report.
Something else you might not know is that the Texas Democratic Party actually made the decriminalization of marijuana part of its official platform last year. Click here to read more about that and to ask your state legislators to support such a measure.
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