Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Governor Abbott radically scales back support for reduced pot penalties

I'll take "Things you say in a campaign that
you don't really mean" for $500, Alex
What a disappointment!

During his campaign last year during a debate with Democrat Lupe Valdez, Governor Greg Abbott announced his support for making possession of up to two ounces of marijuana a Class C misdemeanor. But the governor has now backed off of that position, radically limiting his earlier proposal. He's still for reducing marijuana penalties, but only for amounts so small that it won't affect most cases.

At the House Criminal Jurisprudence Committee meeting on Monday, Chairman Nicole Collier laid out a new committee substitute to HB 335 (Dutton) to make possession of only up to 2 grams a Class C misdemeanor. On a third offense, charges would increase back to a Class B. She declared the changes were made at the request of Governor Abbott.

The governor said last year he did not want to see "jails stockpiled with people who have possession of small amounts of marijuana." But that's exactly what will continue to happen thanks to this change in the bill.

Two grams is a very small amount. Texas law currently treats up to 2 ounces as a Class B misdemeanor, which is considered a user-level amount. Most folks buy pot in quantities of an ounce (~28 grams), a quarter ounce (~7 grams), or an eighth of an ounce (~3.5 grams). So this change will keep pot possession a Class B misdemeanor for most people charged with the offense.

The same committee earlier approved HB 63 (Moody) making possession of up to one ounce of marijuana a civil penalty. But the governor reportedly favors keeping pot possession in the criminal statutes.

In this, Abbott is out of sync with his own party. The Texas GOP state party platform approved last year declares, "We support a change in the law to make it a civil, and not a criminal, offense for legal adults only to possess one ounce or less of marijuana for personal use, punishable by a fine of up to $100, but without jail time." Moody's bill is the closest legislative proposal to that position.

If the scaled-back version of HB 335 is all Governor Abbott will allow to happen, then I suppose, as my father likes to say, it's better than a sharp stick in the eye. But after seeing him campaign on a more aggressive proposal back when he was seeking to appeal to swing voters in a general election, it's discouraging to watch the governor backtrack.


Anonymous said...

I thought he was a paraplegic, not spineless.

At least if I got a sharp stick in the eye I could take the stick poker to court. You traditionally can't sue the government for not getting off it's ass.

Anonymous said...

This is disappointing to say the least. Will the Texas House allow HB 63, the bill that has the backing of the vast majority of Texans, including Republicans, and has been worked on for three sessions by thoughtful lawmakers rot away in calendars because Abbott decided to finally participate in the debate for a few days and hijack Dutton's bill, or will they give HB 63 a deserved vote in the full Texas House? Moody is Vice Chair of Calendars and has some sway in the House, but will that be enough given the overall situation? It's probably a coin flip as an outsider, but maybe Grits has some insight or would care to speculate? Even if HB 63 passed the Texas House, the Senate would let it die at that point.

Anonymous said...

Small amounts of any illegal thing is still illegal. Decriminalization would allow people to grow their own and not have to worry about legalities. 2 grams simply means he wants no changes.
No one ever holds the pols feet to the fire and asks how you can obtain that 2 grams. You must still buy it from someone illegally selling it and then get away from them "toot sweet" so you'll only be able to be charged with a Class C Misdemeanor. That stick looks a bit more deadly all the time.

Anonymous said...

Until the Federal Government changes it's stance on marijuana it will be illegal. States can chose to ignore that, but it doesn't change anything. I don't understand why more Federal Lawsuits are not being filed against users, the employer of a user, and the States allowing the use of THC when it is detected in someone involved any type of accident. I think it is a bad idea for Texas to "legalize" a substance that will still be illegal. If THC is harmless let the FDA make that statement, then change the Federal Law.
By the way, until that happens the Federal Government needs to stop allowing those involved in illegal marijuana business to close bank accounts, but instead confiscate the funds and the business assess to support drug education and rehabilitation.

Anonymous said...

@11:03 AM. Because filling up federal courts with charges against marijuana users would be a waste of limited resources, and disproportionate to the offense.

Anonymous said...

Never said anything about file a criminal charge. I'm talking about going for the money with civil suits. Accidents are always somebodies fault, I argue it is always the user of the illegal drug, as well as those who allow the user of the illegal drug to continue to use it.

Anonymous said...

@11:03 & 11:40,

Are you aware that the presence of THC doesn't necessarily indicate impairment since metabolites stay in the body long after the user is no longer impaired? The government would lose such suits, and your suggestion shows you are uninformed on how civil suits work from a resource allocation perspective and how they would be judged.

As for your statement about states not being able to change anything if it is illegal on the Federal level, I think reality begs to differ. If it didn't change anything, then why do state laws make such a huge difference? The reason is most marijuana enforcement is done on the state level, not the Federal. The DEA cannot police all 50 states.

Lastly your statement that the FDA should make some sort of statement about THC being harmless doesn't make any sense. The FDA doesn't guarantee anything is harmless, including all the drugs they have approved. They have to pass clinical trials that show they are generally safe and effective, but there is room for adverse events and negative side effects. It is always a cost/benefit ratio to a person's health whether or not a drug is beneficial or not. Advil likely increases the risk of heart attack if taken chronically. Tylenol can cause liver failure if dosage is too high or too often. And those are over the counter.

In any case, it will likely be Congress descheduling cannabis rather than an administrative move, although I wouldn't rule the latter out depending on future presidents.

Anonymous said...

AT What point does being High end and just being positive for a drug begin? I think this will be a real issue in auto accidents. No I'm not informed on how civil suits, but your statement that," the government would lose such suits", seems to suggest I would win.
I'm not opposed to medical uses of chemicals in the marijuana plant. They can be prescribed by doctors and controlled just like any other drug, but that isn't what is being argued. Why does society continue to make tobacco use more illegal and marijuana use more legal? Are both now harmful? Is second hand marijuana smoke more or less harmful that tobacco? Don't we as a society have the ability and opportunity to avoid the health consequences that tobacco has caused by not just making something legal to avoid criminal justice cost?

Anonymous said...

Anybody with some common sense would say: If using "pot" is for their own use, not to share, sell, or manufacture. It should be treated like anything else, as long as it does not cause harm to anyone it should not be a crime. Drinking, RX drugs, driving, gun ownership and ect. are in the same category. said...


Unknown said...

This is unbelievably disappointing, to say the least. Back tracking what Abbott stated,to resume his governotorial position is status quo for our politicians of today. They do not follow or care about the will of the people, they are supposed to be representing.
Governor Abbott it is not your values,it is the will, and values of the people that you swore to protect and serve.
I hope you rethink your position. You are hurting tens of thousands of people who are in pain, and are suffering, not to mention the many other conditions cannabis is known to help.
Or, are you supporting big-pharma, or are they supporting you?? Hmmmmm Godspeed