Marijuana advocates were abuzz last month -- and by "abuzz" we mean excited, of course -- when a bill to reduce penalties for marijuana possession was passed out the Texas House Criminal Jurisprudence Committee. The bill had been watered down to apply only to people younger than 21, but the Texas chapter of NORML, the national pot-legalization organization, still called it an "amazing step for Texas."
Also encouraging was progress on a medical marijuana bill that would make medical need a valid defense in pot possession cases. The measure, some version of which has been introduced in the past several sessions, got a hearing for the first time ever. As The Joint Blog declared, "The measure isn't perfect, but is a huge step forward for Texas."
Both those bills, the only pro-marijuana legislation to get any sort of traction this session, are now officially dead, which isn't to say that marijuana activists are admitting defeat.
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"We have always been well aware of the fact that neither of these bills had much of a chance with the current makeup of the Legislature," Josh Schimberg, Texas NORML's executive director, wrote in an email. "However we have seen some progress resulting from our concerted effort to get information to all of the legislators. The progress, albeit small, included much more media coverage, getting new co-sponsors for the bills, getting a hearing for HB 594, and seeing HB 184 voted out of committee and into the Calendars Committee.
"Obviously, this issue isn't one that will be changing quickly in Texas, but our organization intends to keep up the pressure both between sessions and in the lead up to the 2015 session."
Who knows? By then, maybe the bills will actually make it to the House or Senate floor. For something to actually pass, however, the Legislature will have to have a lot fewer Republicans, or a lot more Republicans who smoke pot.