AUSTIN — With the Texas Republican Party signaling support for lowering penalties for marijuana possession in the state, some groups are hoping 2019 will be their year for policy changes they’d like to see.
“We’re really thrilled to see that like the majority of Americans, Texas Republicans are taking a stand against current policies and are in favor of a more sensible approach when it comes to reducing penalties for low-level possession,” Heather Fazio with Texans for Responsible Marijuana Policy said.
During its party convention, the Texas GOP adopted a platform plank that supports changing the law to make it a civil offense for adults caught with one ounce or less of marijuana, with a fine up to $100.
Fazio said her organization supports eliminating the threat of arrest, jail time and the criminal record that people can currently end up with.
“That criminal record leads to collateral consequences, such as hindered access to education, employment, housing,” she said.
Aubree Adams from Colorado, who volunteers with a group called Texans Against Legalizing Marijuana, says education and additional resources for treatment to help someone caught with marijuana possession could be the best route to go.
“If they’re committing crimes with it, they need to be held accountable,” she said. “How much marijuana, what they’re doing with it, what’s your definition of marijuana because there are all kinds of forms of marijuana – they now have this really high potency stuff.”
Lubbock County Sheriff Kelly Rowe said in an emailed statement that in a significant majority of cases when small amounts of marijuana are located, they’re often in addition to locating large amounts of “more dangerous narcotics such as crystal methamphetamine, heroin or cocaine.”
“Law enforcement officers have situational discretion, when only a minimal user amount of marijuana is discovered, to address the issue with other alternatives without making an arrest,” he said. “As a result of this, with the Lubbock County Detention Center population at just under 1,300, only a very small number, if any, are charged and incarcerated for the lowest grade marijuana offense only. In other words, this offense is normally filed in addition to other charges as part of the arrest.”
Other areas that the Texas GOP showed support for include improving the 2015 Compassionate Use Act, rescheduling the federal classification of marijuana and urging legislators to pass laws that allow cultivation, manufacture and sale of industrial hemp and hemp products.