House committee approves bill to legalize marijuana

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Photo Credit: Melanie Westfall | Daily Texan Staff

Legalized marijuana may be coming to Texas after a recent House committee vote.

In what is being hailed as a victory by its supporters, the Texas House Criminal Jurisprudence Committee on May 7 approved legislation that would legalize the possession, sale and recreational usage of marijuana in Texas.

HB 2165, sponsored by Rep. David Simpson (R-Longview), is described as legislation “relating to repealing marihuana (sic) offenses.” According to CBS Houston, the bill seeks to have those convicted on a first-time “state jail felony” to instead be placed under “community supervision,” along with creating probationary protections for students and minors.

Simpson, who is a member of the Tea Party, wrote in an op-ed last month that his belief in God and his distrust in government led him to sponsor the bill.

“I don’t believe that when God made marijuana he made a mistake that government needs to fix,” Simpson wrote. “The time has come for a thoughtful discussion of the prudence of the prohibition approach to drug abuse, the impact of prohibition enforcement on constitutionally protected liberties and the responsibilities that individuals must take for their own actions.”

Stephanie Hamborsky, leader of the University’s Students for Sensible Drug Policy chapter, said although the organization supports the bill’s passing, it does not agree with the way Simpson presented the issue.

“We feel it passed [the committee] because it was a conservative that pushed it and he’s very religious,” said Hamborsky, a Plan II and biology junior. “We wish it had been passed through with other reasoning, but we’re glad it’s been proposed nonetheless.”

Two Republicans joined the panel’s three Democrats in approving the bill, which passed the committee by a 5–2 margin. The committee’s ruling comes four days after the same panel voted in favor of another bill calling for the decriminalization of marijuana, another unprecedented decision in state Legislature.

The bill passed committee only after altering language to ensure marijuana consumption by minors remains illegal in the state unless under direct parental supervision. 

Government junior Carlo Antoniolli said he thinks the bill will not last much longer in the Legislature.

“I think it had potential to make it through committee, but there is no way will it be voted for on the floor,” Antoniolli said.

Antoniolli also voiced concern with the way Simpson framed legalization in his bill.

“I’m a big advocate for separation of church and state,” Antoniolli said. “I don’t think [religious affiliation] is a very justifiable way to consider something.”