By Alizeh Siddiqui, Marijuana Policy Project
AUSTIN, TX — As part of the Marijuana Policy Project’s multi-year legislative campaign in Texas, the Washington, DC based organization is developing bill proposals to address marijuana decriminalization, as well as allowing marijuana to be used for medical reasons and eventually regulating it similarly to alcohol for adults in the Lone Star State.
According to Heather Fazio, Texas Political Director for the Marijuana Policy Project, the group will be pre-filing the three bills this November, in anticipation of the 84th Texas Legislative Session, starting in January.
“We are working with a diverse coalition to introduce a civil penalty bill which [would] make small possession punishable by a simple fine, rather than a criminal charge,” said Fazio.
“This means no opportunity for jail time, and none of the collateral sanctions which come along with a criminal drug arrest. These collateral sanctions include limited access to resources for education, housing, employment, etc. It will also help to break down the stigma which goes along with being arrested and jailed for the possession of this plant.”
“We will [also] be introducing a bill to create a legal market for marijuana, similar to alcohol, for responsible adults who are 21 and over,” says Fazio.
The three bills cite Texans’ support for reduced marijuana penalties, the passage of medical marijuana laws, and taxing and regulating marijuana similarly to alcohol.
Moreover, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration and RAND Corporation data, 1,267,200 Texans already use marijuana each month, with the average user consuming 100 grams per year.
Should Texas regulate and tax marijuana, with a tax of $50 per ounce implemented, the Lone Star State would stand to make between $150,971,063 and $264,199,294 in tax revenue annually.
[Here’s an overview of the three soon-to-be-introduced proposals:]
While possession of marijuana in amounts of one ounce or less would remain illegal under the proposed Civil Penalty Bill, penalties would be reduced:
- There would be no arrest or jail time, and the offense would not result in a criminal record.
- There would be a civil fine, but only up to $100, which is significantly lower than previous fines for possession.
- There would be no effect on future employment prospects, housing, or educational opportunities for minor possession.
More than half of Texas voters — 58 percent — support allowing medical marijuana. MPP’s proposed medical marijuana bill would:
- Medical patients with proper authorization from their doctors will not be arrested or penalized for possessing up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana, nor will they be penalized for growing weed in a secure location. Patients must be diagnosed with one of the specific debilitating medical conditions listed under the guidelines to qualify.
- Physicians also cannot be punished for suggesting that a medical patient use cannabis for the alleviation of their symptoms, which is of real concern for doctors in Texas under the current laws.
- Under specific guidelines, medical marijuana businesses — more commonly known as dispensaries — would be allowed to cultivate and sell medicinal pot to patients, which would remove the criminal elements of obtaining marijuana by medical patients.
- Medical marijuana would be tested, labeled for potency, and free from harmful contaminants.
- There would also be a clause to allow seriously ill patients to designate a caregiver to obtain medical marijuana from authorized sources, since there is a concern about traveling by some medical patients.
MPP is also planning to propose a full-on legalization bill in the Lone Star State. Under the proposed “Free Market Bill”, the proposed changes would be that:
- Marijuana would be treated much like other adult substances — alcohol, for instance — and the sale of the plant would be taxed and regulated, with adults 21 and over being granted access.
- Much like Colorado and Washington, Texas would allow for retail businesses, grow houses (or cultivation centers, if you’re fancy like that) and testing labs, which is already pretty much par for the course with anything consumable.
- Everything would be licensed and regulated, and local government would be granted the ability to establish their own regulations.
- Driving under the influence would remain illegal, and no employer would be forced to okay intoxication.
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