Texas Takes a Step Toward Legalizing Marijuana

Why is it happening now?

By Rhonda FanningMay 8, 2015 9:58 am

In a historic move for deeply conservative Texas, a house committee passed two bills on marijuana use and possession this week. The Texas House Criminal Jurisprudence Committee passed a bill, authored by Rep. Joe Moody (D – El Paso), to decriminalize the possession of a small amount of marijuana. The other piece of legislation, authored by Rep. David Simpson (R – Longview) seeks full legalization of the substance for recreational purposes. Both bills would not apply to minors. This is the first time a legislative committee in the state has voted through such measures, despite a history of similar bills introduced during previous sessions.

Rep. Moody spoke to the Texas Standard about his decriminalization bill, the change of heart at the Texas Legislature and what this bill would mean for parental discussions on safety and drug use.

“Texas likes to think of ourselves as a leader in all things and this is absolutely something that we should take the lead in,” Moody says.

But he remains pragmatic about the final passage of the two bills: “When you’re suggesting such a profound change as this is for Texas, you know you face an uphill battle…. we’ve definitely moved the needle in terms of where we are and where Texas may be going in the discussion,” he says. “The days are real short that we’ve got left to finish all the legislative steps getting out of House committee. I think it signals to the policymakers that we’re ready to have that discussion.”

This sudden support from Republican legislators runs counter to a lot of stereotypes about Texas politics, why is there such a draw to the issue this session?

“It’s a grassroots effort that’s going on,” Moody says. “The reason that I filed the bill in the first place – the idea came from a constituent that brought it to our office. I leaned on my background as a former prosecutor to kind of lend to driving this policy discussion…now that we’re pushing these ideas at the Capitol, the conversation gets to be a bit broader. It gets to be more complete.”

How does this legislation affect Moody’s thoughts on marijuana use in kids and young adults as a father? He likens discussions about weed use to similar conversations about alcohol use and driving a car: it’s all about being safe.

“You need to have these conversations,” he says. “Nothing about these bills encourages use at all. But I think it’s about how we handle this substance in Texas.”