MENU

Reason.com

Free Minds & Free Markets

Texas GOP Endorses Marijuana Decriminalization

Republicans in one of the most conservative states in the union gave a thumbs up to rolling back marijuana prohibition.

Promesaartstudio/Dreamstime.comPromesaartstudio/Dreamstime.com

The Republican Party of Texas has officially endorsed decriminalization of marijuana, offering yet more proof of the dizzying speed at which attitudes are changing toward marijuana and marijuana prohibition.

At the state's GOP biennial party convention in San Antonio last week, assembled delegates lent their overwhelming support to adding four cannabis-related planks to the party platform, including the repeal of criminal penalties for marijuana possession, the expansion of the state's incredibly limited medical marijuana law, a call for the rescheduling of marijuana at the federal level, and the legalization of industrial hemp production. All measures passed with 80 percent of the vote or more.

"Texas Republicans are no exception to the majority of Americans that want to see marijuana laws reformed," says Heather Fazio, a spokesperson for Texans for Responsible Marijuana Policy, one of the advocacy groups pushing for the marijuana planks' inclusion. "Texas is still living under very harsh penalties for even small amounts of marijuana. Delegates took a stand for a more sensible approach to these policies."

The move comes a few short weeks after President Trump gave a hedged endorsement of a marijuana federalism bill that would allow state-legal marijuana markets to continue without federal interference.

Possessing under four ounces of marijuana is a Class B misdemeanor in Texas, punishable by up to 6 months in jail and a $2,000 fine. Roughly 12 percent of all marijuana arrests—about 60,000 a year—happen in Texas. Some 98 percent of these arrests are for simple possession.

Penalties extend beyond the immediate criminal sanctions, too.

"Criminal penalties for drug possession, even marijuana, come with a lifetime of collateral consequences. That's hindered access to education, employment, housing, your driver's license is suspended for 6 months," says Fazio. "With those of us in Texas supportive of our Second Amendment protected rights, our license to carry in Texas is suspended for five years."

The Republican Party of Texas' official position now is that these penalties should be abolished and replaced with civil fines of $100 or less.

The change complements efforts being made on the local level in Texas. In December 2017, the city of Dallas dispensed with arresting people on misdemeanor marijuana charges. Kim Ogg, district attorney for Harris County (which includes the city of Houston) has gone even further. As of March 2017, her office is declining to prosecute most marijuana offenses and instead diverting people into "cognitive decision-making classes."

That same year, a bipartisan marijuana decriminalization bill was introduced into the Texas House of Representatives. It managed to pass out of committee but never received a vote by the whole chamber.

The legislature also has made some tepid moves toward liberalizing marijuana for medical use, passing a Compassionate Use Act in 2015. The bill allows doctors to recommend low-THC, CBD-rich strains of marijuana for some epilepsy patients.

The 2016 Texas GOP platform endorsed allowing doctors to decide which patients they could recommend for the program, a plank that was retained in this year's platform.

In what she describes as a "last minute bonus," convention delegates also approved a rescheduling marijuana from a Schedule One drug—the most restrictive classification—to a Schedule Two drug.

Fazio stresses that while she would prefer descheduling of marijuana, the willingness of party delegates to take on federal laws governing marijuana was encouraging, saying it "sent the right message to Congress."

Despite these positive gains, support for loosening marijuana laws is not universal in the Lone Star State.

At least one anti-marijuana group was present at this year's Texas GOP convention, advocating against any inclusion of decriminalization language in the platform. State Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, for instance, has characterized Harris County's approach to marijuana enforcement as creating a sanctuary city for drug offenders.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbot has staked out a less-than-courageous wait-and-see approach toward expanding the state's medical marijuana program, while rehashing canned concerns about its effect as a "gateway drug."

Nevertheless, the fact that marijuana decriminalization language made it into the platform of the Republican party in one of the most conservative states in the union—right alongside language about protecting gay conversion therapy and cutting all funding to the U.N.—is a surefire sign that rolling back marijuana prohibition is quickly becoming a bipartisan issue.

Photo Credit: Promesaartstudio/Dreamstime.com

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  • Fats of Fury||

    Can hardly wait until the BTAF&M are put in charge of Marijuana tax compliance. They're known not to give up until everyone is left a heaping smoldering pile.

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    You can't have a change of heart like this unless you're out of office or in the minority party.

  • Thomas O.||

    If the Texas GOP platform can change on this - but not on gay stuff - I gotta believe that MJ reform is seriously making inroads to the party base, if not the bigwigs.

  • technovelist||

    The Republicans are in office and are the majority party.

    So apparently your statement is incorrect.

  • OpenBordersLiberal-tarian||

    I suspect the Russians put them up to this.

  • Citizen X||

    Don't, like, mess with Texas, man.

  • Kyfho Myoba||

    Dude. Seriously! Don't do it, man.

  • I am the 0.000000013%||

    heh heh .. heh ... heh heh heh

  • SQRLSY One||

    The ONLY way that the Texas GOP will actually go THROUGH with relaxing Mary-Jane laws, is if they can somehow magically sneak magic molecules into the MJ, to make all Texans MJ-imbibers vote for the GOP!

  • Thomas O.||

    All it'll really take is enough of those die-hard law-n-order drug warriors to have a change of heart after disease-ridden relatives or children spring back to life after a visit to Colorado.

  • Chipper Morning Baculum||

    Weed and ass sex down. Mexicans next.

  • SQRLSY One||

    Mexican ass sex is the BEST, especially while smoking weed and eating deep-dish pizza!!!

  • Chipper Morning Baculum||

    Dude, why you gotta bring deep dish into this.

  • Citizen X||

    Are the Mexicans circumcised, though?

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    What cunty thing to ask.

  • Robert||

    ...from a food truck.

  • vek||

    A certain Meatloaf song pops into my head, "Two Out Of Three Ain't Bad" I believe it is called. That's how I'd like to see this go. Dope and fags are fine, but open borders... Not so much if we want to continue as a 1st world nation.

  • ||

    The Republican Party of Texas' official position now is that these penalties should be abolished and replaced with civil fines of $100 or less.

    I just can't wrap my head around the logic of decriminalization. "We're still going to ban it, but we're just going to slap you with a fine if we catch you." So why do this exactly? Does there remain a real societal value in continuing to give the fuzz a stick to beat you with, even if the beatings hurt less? You still have most of the problems related to a black market. You just have less people in jail, which is a good thing, but you also end up with even less respect for the law, since the choice to consume MJ will still be widely made.

  • ||

    It's a bone you can throw to the people who think legalization = encouragement = forced addiction crisis = end of Western Civilization. It's a way to stop the obviously bad outcome of filling prisons up with stoners while leaving tools at the community's disposal to prevent the streets from filling up with stoners.

    I don't agree with it, but I think that's the basic logic.

  • KevinP||

    It's an improvement over throwing people in prison. Don't let the perfect become the enemy of the good.

  • Finrod||

    This. Any steps toward full legalization should be encouraged.

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    I think the best way to get Republicans on board with Marijuana legalization is to let Democrats regulate it.

  • DRM||

    You know, twenty-four years ago, I had a speech-and-debate teacher who wouldn't let students bring up marijuana legalization because it was "never going to happen".

  • Gaear Grimsrud||

    Back in the 70s the Ann Arbor MI city government passed a $5.00 pot law. The penalty for possession was a $5 ticket and judging by the joints being passed virtually everywhere in the city, I don't think a whole lot of tickets were getting written, I never got one. If you had told me back then that we'd end up throwing cancer patients in federal penitentiaries for growing pot in their basements I'd have said "never going to happen".

  • Gaear Grimsrud||

    "Nevertheless, the fact that marijuana decriminalization language made it into the platform of the Republican party in one of the most conservative states in the union...is a surefire sign that rolling back marijuana prohibition is quickly becoming a bipartisan issue."
    The implication being that this was previously an exclusively Democrat issue. Prohibition has always been bipartisan and enforced with fervent zeal by party favorites like Bill Clinton, Obama and Herself for many decades. It's way too late for Democrats to rehabilitate their legacy on this and it would be nice if Reason writers would refrain from supporting their efforts to do so.

  • DesigNate||

    "It's way too late for Democrats to rehabilitate their legacy on this and it would be nice if Reason writers would refrain from supporting their efforts to do so."

    ^THIS^

  • Iheartskeet||

    Yup

  • Imissbuckley||

    All true. But in fairness the Left, at least the old school hippie Left, has always been more associated with pro-legalization than the Right, and Democrats do represent the Left. The fact that most of the people on the "Right" who have support legalization over the years have been a small group of libertarians, conservative intellectuals who leaned libertarian, and some eccentric contrarian types, its understandable why the Left would get credit for this. Politicians on both sides have been awful on this issue for years, but one side's base has been a little better than the other. There's a reason why most of the states that have legalized thus far, except Alaska, have been blue states or purple states that lean blue.

  • BenjaminTheDonkey||

    The horse finally decides to drink

  • Hank Phillips||

    No mystery here. Four thousand libertarian spoiler votes promptly got Roe v. Wade copied out of the LP platform and into US jurisprudence. George Waffen Bush's faith-based looter prohibitionism broke the economy the same way Herbert Hoover and Reagan and Daddy Bush did. It's no secret that looters raiding bank accounts cause crashes. In order to keep their jobs, God's Own Prohibitionists have to copy planks from someone other than the Prohibition Party that has dictated GO-Pee policy since 1928. Four MILLION libertarian spoiler votes this past election were all the convincing they needed. LP spoiler votes force the looters to repeal their bad laws.

  • vek||

    Good. If the Republicans would stop fighting the useless culture war battles, and concentrate on the ones that actually matter, maybe we could save our civilization? I convinced a hard core religious girlfriend of mine that CRACK should be legalized after talking it through with her a few times. It just doesn't matter THAT MUCH either way really in terms of importance. Obviously should be legal, but it just not a civilization destroying thing either way.

    Fighting the extra nutty SJW types on all their delusional "social" issues that make no logical sense and are completely removed from reality would be a far better effort, if one wants to fight social battles at all.

  • ||

    We are offering a wide range of pharmacy products that nearly cover all what you will need. Fast and discreet Delivery ,quality Guaranteed 100%,Express with UPS,FedEx,E

    We are offering a wide range of pharmacy products that nearly cover all what you will need. Fast and discreet Delivery ,quality Guaranteed 100%,Express with UPS,FedEx,EMS with Tracking numbers,No Rx require. Email: stevemeds77@gmail.com Text : +1 (978) 225-0960 or visit our website: https://www.familymeds.wordpress.com To Place Your Order.
    MS with Tracking numbers,No Rx require. Email: ashewepen77@gmail.com Text : +1 (978) 225-0960 or visit our website: https://www.familymeds.wordpress.com To Place Your Order.

GET REASON MAGAZINE

Get Reason's print or digital edition before it’s posted online