A prime Republican Texas lawmaker says that he’ll work to enact prison justice reform within the 2023 session, and he once more expressed help for decreasing penalties for marijuana possession.
Home Speaker Dade Phelan (R) talked about his legislative priorities throughout an interview on the Texas Tribune Pageant on Friday, saying that “we’re over-incarcerated in Texas” and noting that he backs decreasing marijuana penalties.
“I don’t know marijuana from oregano. It’s not likely my factor,” Phelan stated, according to San Antonio Report. However decreasing penalties for easy possession, as could be achieved underneath laws he’s beforehand cosponsored, continues to be on the desk, the outlet reported.
The speaker has been making the oregano remark for greater than a yr, so it’s not clear when he’ll have the ability to distinguish the herbs, however he did point out that he’s supportive of hashish reform, which the legislature might take up once more in the course of the subsequent session that begins in January.
Talking at a Texas Younger Republicans occasion final yr, Phelan stated, “I understand the issue” regardless of his normal lack of familiarity with the marijuana plant.
The speaker additionally beforehand touted the truth that he voted for a restricted medical hashish legalization invoice throughout his freshman yr within the legislature, and he stated that his help for the reform is partly based mostly on the truth that he has a “sister with extreme epilepsy, and small quantities of CBD oil makes an enormous distinction in individuals’s lives.”
Phelan additionally famous that he was a “joint writer—no pun meant” of hashish decriminalization laws prior to now.
“I used to be ready to return dwelling and clarify it, and it wasn’t an enormous deal,” he stated. “To me, it’s an affordable prison justice reform situation.”
Jax James, government director for Texas NORML, cheered the speaker’s newest feedback.
“Lowering the penalties for private possession of marijuana has lengthy been an necessary situation to Texas voters,” she advised Marijuana Second. “It can be crucial that the speaker of the Home has reaffirmed his help for addressing the cruel penalties round minor marijuana possession. Now greater than ever, you will need to reprioritize regulation enforcement’s time.”
Whereas Texas has seen extra modest hashish reforms enacted lately, together with the expansion of the state’s medical marijuana program, the conservative legislature has but to meaningfully advance broad reform.
Advocates additionally stay disillusioned that lawmakers have to this point been unable to pass other incremental cannabis bills—resembling a decriminalization proposal that has superior in a single chamber of the legislature solely to stall within the different.
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Based on a ballot launched final month, a majority of Texas voters support legalizing marijuana for medical and recreational use.
Texas Republicans is likely to be on the fence on legalization general, however the state’s GOP occasion formalized its opposition to ending prohibition once more with the adoption of a policy plank as a part of its 2022 platform.
Two modest reforms that had been supported within the platform, nonetheless, had been the federal rescheduling marijuana from Schedule I to II and decreasing rules on hemp.
Beto O’Rourke, a Democratic gubernatorial candidate with a longstanding record of supporting drug policy reform within the Lone Star state and in Congress, was fast to criticize the GOP group over its embrace of restrictive social insurance policies, together with hashish criminalization.
Even Gov. Greg Abbott (R) appeared to embrace simple decriminalization in January, saying “jail and jail is a spot for harmful criminals who might hurt others, and small possession of marijuana will not be the kind of violation that we wish to stockpile jails with.”
However he misstated present coverage, suggesting that the legislature already made easy marijuana possession a category C misdemeanor with out the specter of jail time. In actual fact, the regulation nonetheless thought of possession of as much as two ounces a category B misdemeanor that carries a punishment of as much as 180 days in jail and a most $2,000 nice.
Texas Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller argued in favor of further expanding medical cannabis access in an op-ed in July, saying that “hashish prohibition got here from a spot of concern, not from medical science or the evaluation of social hurt.” His Democratic opponent, Susan Hays, has explicitly known as for adult-use marijuana legalization.
On the native degree, marijuana reform has moved quickly as Texas activists have labored to enact reform in jurisdictions throughout the state. In Could, for instance, Austin voters approved marijuana decriminalization overwhelmingly.
Voters in 5 extra Texas cities will see cannabis decriminalization measures on their November ballots.