Texas Marijuana Reform Dead, Just Like That

Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, the reigning hegemon of the Texas Senate
Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, the reigning hegemon of the Texas Senate
Gage Skidmore
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The Texas Legislature's latest attempt to reform the state's marijuana laws appears to have gone out not with a bang or a whimper but with a tweet.

Monday night, the Texas House of Representatives passed a landmark bill that, if it becomes law, would reduce Texas' penalty for possessing an ounce or less of marijuana to a Class C misdemeanor, the equivalent of a traffic ticket or open container citation. The legislation, written by longtime criminal justice reform advocate Rep. Joe Moody of El Paso, was crafted to be palatable to Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, who signaled during his 2018 run for reelection that he was open to tweaking the state's drug laws so fewer low-level offenders ended up in jail.

Abbott can only sign House Bill 63 if it gets to his desk, however. As of Tuesday morning, that appears unlikely to happen.

Piggybacking off comments made to the Texas Observer  by Democratic state Sen. John Whitmire, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick said Moody's reform bill is dead on arrival in the upper chamber, despite the fact that 69% of Texans overall and 62% of Republicans in the state want to reduce penalties for marijuana possession, according to a June poll from the Texas Tribune.

As the Senate's president, Patrick controls its agenda. Nothing gets to the floor for a vote without his allowing it to do so.

Speaking on the House floor Tuesday, Moody called Patrick out for legislating via social media.

"Mr. Patrick has been tweeting about this bill instead of giving us the courtesy of talking to us here in the House," Moody said, according to reporters at the capitol. "Mr. Patrick is the odd man out here, and the ball is in his court."

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