Two Texas Lawmakers Have Filed Bills to Decriminalize Marijuana

If you don't know anything about Elliott Naishtat, you can go here, where you'll learn that he likes to color with crayons, wears the same shirt every July 4, is pretty sure he'd make a fantastic president and loves buffets.

He's also a Democratic state representative from Austin who, though it's not mentioned in the aforementioned list, thinks Texas' drug laws are too strict. Last week, he filed a bill to that would make the lives of medical marijuana users a bit less taxing.

Naishtat's bill wouldn't make medical marijuana legal per se. It would simply decriminalize it by removing the penalties for those caught using or prescribing it.

Specifically, those charged with possession could be acquitted if the drug had been recommended by a licensed doctor "for the amelioration of the symptoms or effects of a bona fide medical condition."

The proposal goes a step further when it comes to doctors, prohibiting police, the Texas Medical Board and any other public agency from launching an investigation or punishing doctors solely because they prescribe marijuana.

Naishtat's proposal is far from the type of comprehensive drug reform that even the Morning News thinks is needed, but it would be a step.

So would a bill filed by Representative Harold Dutton, a Houston Democrat who proposes reducing the penalty for possessing less than an ounce of weed from a Class B misdemeanor, which carries a maximum $2,000 fine and 180 days in jail, to a Class C misdemeanor, which carries a possible $500 fine and no jail time.

Such measures have stalled during past legislative sessions, but this time they seem they might have the support of at least part of the conservative establishment. According to a Morning News editorial, the Texas Public Policy Foundation, a conservative think tank, and the Texas Association of Business have come to the conclusion that locking people up for low-level drug offenses is bad for business.

It's not exactly a declaration of love for marijuana, but it's from a voice that Republican lawmakers might actually listen to.

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Eric Nicholson
Contact: Eric Nicholson

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