Texas: Decriminalization Bill Dies in House

H.B. 81 is gone but not forgotten.

A bill intended to lessen the penalty for possessing small amounts of marijuana expired last night in the Texas House, without receiving a vote.

Considered deceased at the stroke of midnight, had House Bill 81 survived the political process to become law, the bill would have drastically reduced the penalties for individuals caught in possession with personal amounts of marijuana.

Currently punishable by up to six months in jail and a $2,000 fine, H.B. 81 would have allowed Texas law enforcement officials to issue tickets to individuals found in possession of less than 1 ounce of weed, according to the Statesman:

“Under the bill, people issued those tickets would pay fines of up to $250, do community service or attend substance-abuse classes, but wouldn’t suffer the permanent stigma of having a criminal record and wouldn’t crowd local courts and jails.”

Passed out of committee by early April and placed on the legislature’s General State Calendar for consideration, House Bill 81 is now considered dead as stand-alone legislation.

Concerned policymakers in the House would snub H.B. 81 do to a busy legislative calendar, the bill’s two lead sponsors encouraged the subjugated citizens of Texas to keep the faith:

“Reps. Joe Moody, D-El Paso, and Jason Isaac, R-Dripping Springs – warned earlier this week that they thought it unlikely the House would get to it by the midnight deadline because of a jam-packed House schedule. They said they planned to look for ways in the final two weeks of the legislative session to resurrect it, such as by tacking it on as an amendment to another bill. “

Joining H.B. 2107 and H.B. 3587 as zombiefied Texas marijuana legislation, Moody and Isaac’s bill “advanced farther than any of the other high-profile marijuana-related bills this session by simply making it onto the calendar of the full House.” Passed by their respective committees to make it to the House, neither H.B. 2107  (medical marijuana legislation) nor H.B. 3587 (Hemp cultivation legislation) was ultimately placed on the calendar for consideration by the full House.

Undaunted by this week’s legislative setbacks, supporters of Texas marijuana reform believe these three bills may still be revived by “tacking them onto still-viable legislation as amendments.”

As for marijuana reform in the Lone Star State, remember the old Texas saying, “a drought usually ends with a flood.”

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