Thursday, May 07, 2015

Volteface on pot by committee extends to full-blown legalization

Who knows what it means that the House Criminal Jurisprudence Committee yesterday voted out Rep. David Simpson's treat-it-like-tomatoes legalize pot bill on a 5-2 vote?  (See MSM coverage.) That's one more vote in favor, ironically, than Joe Moody's HB 507 reducing low-level possession to a civil penalty was able to muster! And keep in mind, at one point last week, Moody's bill was actually voted down in committee, then resuscitated, with the chairman switching his vote on a motion to reconsider. Grits had considered it a low point in the session when the chairman seemingly scuttled the bill by bringing it up for decision while its yes votes were out of the room.

So it was that the committee went from actively snubbing marijuana reformers to endorsing full-blown legalization in just a little more than a week. What a wild ride!

Sure, they basically passed it too late to matter. It seems unlikely the Calendars Gods will smile on Simpson's bill, as much as I might like it. But then, perhaps I shouldn't project: I didn't think Chairman Abel Herrero would give the legislation a vote, much less vote for it himself. Since Calendars Committee Chairman Todd Hunter is on the Criminal Jurisprudence Committee and voted for both bills, I suppose anything's possible with his support. HB 507, though, probably represents the version of reform which presently has the votes to pass on the House floor, at least if it can get set for a floor vote before the deadline. Right now, both bills are in the netherworld between the committee vote and actually becoming eligible for consideration by the Calendars Committee, and every day's delay makes it less likely either will be heard.

The vicissitudes of the marijuana bills' story demonstrate in part why Grits' blogging has lightened up in the last week or so: Things are moving so fast at the Legislature (in a hurry-up-and-wait kind of way) that what seems true today may not be true tomorrow. Trying to write about them in the moment can be like skeet shooting with a handgun.

MORE: The Houston Chronicle offered a similarly pessimistic assessment about the bills' prospects, at least in the short term. At this point (5/9), even if the bill were put on a calendar in the final days, it's probably too late for it to be heard in 2015 on the House floor. The House adjourned for Mother's Day weekend with five legal-sized pages worth of bills left unheard, so next week's calendars will all be pushed back substantially. Never say never, but these bills have now entered extreme long shot territory.

13 comments:

Katy Anders said...

Is the private prison industry not lobbying enough these days?

Anonymous said...

It means there's a bunch of idiots on the Criminal Jurisprudence Committee. That's all.

Anonymous said...

This year is the most active year I've seen the private prison industry in action. I hope some of the representatives will know that sentencing reforms will become an election issue. The failed drug war has made our neighborhoods more dangerous and destroyed millions of lives.

Attorney William Umansky said...

It's really interesting to see such a turn in approval for the bill. I think you got to follow the money here.

Anonymous said...

2:27,

Seems that there are a bunch of courageous lawmakers on the committee.

A sincere THANK YOU is in order to the Chair, Rep. Herrero, Vice Chair, Rep. Moody, and to Rep. Todd Hunter, Rep. David Simpson (author), and Rep. Terry Canales for voting to end a policy that funnels billions of dollars to criminal elements and makes criminals out of over 50,000 Texans a year, including family members, professionals, friends, medical patients, and businessmen and women. And what for? Every Texan has vices or has made mistakes at some point. We all at one point or other have consumed alcohol, tobacco, sodas, sugary foods, fatty fried foods, etc. When these become health issues, they should be medical problems, not criminal problems. It's time to stop the double standard by stopping the criminalization of adults for using a substance less dangerous than alcohol or tobacco.

Anonymous said...

7:17 - It would have been more courageous if they'd taken the vote when there was time for the bill to pass.

Steve Kelley said...

My question is how are you going to pass a drug test required by corporation. a lot of people will be out of a job.
stevek

The Old Skool Preacher said...

Whenever legalization occurs whether this legislative session or the next, it will be better than later for Communities of Color

Anonymous said...

Should have never been illegal in the first place, i would rather be around a pot smoker then a meth or other drug or alcohol user.

Shannon E. said...

"Things are moving so fast at the Legislature (in a hurry-up-and-wait kind of way) that what seems true today may not be true tomorrow. Trying to write about them in the moment can be like skeet shooting with a handgun."

Slow clap for Grits. Nicely said!

Anonymous said...

My question is how are you going to pass a drug test required by corporation. a lot of people will be out of a job.
stevek


Steve,

The bill would legalize the possession and sale of marijuana for adults, but it does not require that adults use marijuana. Most people that want to use marijuana are already doing so (they just purchase it from the black market instead of a legal, taxed one), so don't expect every Texan to start using marijuana.

In any case, employers would still be able to fire or not hire employees based on a urine test, just as employers are able to hire or fire for alcohol which is already legal.

Anonymous said...

I am against it all, but that is my opinion and to each is their own.
Its very sad to admit but I have my own business and have employed both weed and dope smokers. Both were decent when applying and interviewing. They both stole equipment, supplies and called in every other or couple of days. The difference between the ones I experienced was the work performed. The weed smokers did very little work if any at all and wanted unemployment after working less than a month. The dope smokers worked around the clock literally to the point of noise complaints in the middle of the night from them working. So I dont see passing this law is good for anyone except maybe those who do not smoke and in need of a 10 dollar an hour job........

Anonymous said...

I suspect they voted in favor of full legalization knowing full well that was never going to happen this session. Had they merely voted on a half way measure like decriminalization, it could have had the chance to pass but not full out legalized status.

I'm to the right of center and I support legalization, taxing it, and using whatever additional jail space to throw away the key on those who hurt others such as robbers, rapists, and those who prey on children rather than pocket some petty cash. As far as heavy smokers and the stereotypical behavior they display, something I've seen a lot of times in family or friends of family, it's not like most of them are taking up space in good universities, taking good jobs, or otherwise getting in the way of those who chase the American Dream so other than limiting any government benefits they might seek, live and let live.