Given all the talk of our great state “turning blue” lately, you’d think Republican politicians would do a better job of keeping their promises and passing small government reforms that would benefit all Texans. Unfortunately, we’ve just witnessed another example of so-called conservatives choosing fiscal irresponsibility and big government over common sense marijuana reform that would save over $700 million per budget cycle and allow our hardworking law enforcement officers to focus on pressing criminal matters instead of arresting 70,000 Texans each year on simple possession charges.
As the Political Director of Republicans Against Marijuana Prohibition (RAMP), Chairman Emeritus of the Texas Young Republican Federation (TYRF), and a previous city-council-appointed member of the Houston Public Safety Advisory Committee, I was encouraged to see the House approve HB 63 by a supermajority (103-42) this week. Even though this bill was watered down compared to the original version, which was in line with the Republican Party of Texas’ platform, it remained a step in the right direction.
Yet less than a day after the House passage of HB 63, which included support from many of our state’s most conservative Republicans, Lt. Governor Dan Patrick suddenly declared the bill dead on arrival in the Senate without even so much as a hearing. Our local chapter of Young Republicans responded in kind, politely pointing to statewide Texas YR advocacy on this issue and our willingness to meet for a discussion. So far, our outreach has gone unacknowledged.
This is a disappointment on a number of levels, and as a Harris County Precinct Chair who has visited with thousands of voters through block walking, phone calls, and other campaign activity in support of Texas Republicans, Gov. Abbott and Lt. Governor Patrick included, I know from experience that dropping the ball like this will both dampen conservative activism and give Democrats another advantage as they seek to shift Texas politically.
But don’t just take my word for it. According to a poll from June of last year conducted by the University of Texas and the Texas Tribune, 69% of voters in our state support reform that would limit punishment for the possession of marijuana of one ounce or less to a fine of $250 without jail time. Given these numbers, not to mention the evidence we have from other states that such policies work and have been working since the 1970s, it’s insulting that the Lt. Governor can’t even be bothered to let the legislative process work itself out by calling for a fair hearing and a vote on this bill. Please click here to contact the Lt. Governor and ask him to reconsider his position.
After all, Republicans across the nation have made huge strides as leaders on criminal justice reform on both the state and federal levels, positioning us well politically for doing the right thing: an easy win-win. Yet a small but stubborn minority here in Texas won’t follow President Trump’s lead and pass a common sense update to our marijuana laws, which haven’t been reformed in nearly half a century.
There are still 26 days left in our current legislative session, and I can’t stress enough how critical it is that Lt. Governor Patrick and Criminal Justice Committee Chairman Sen. John Whitmire reverse this mistake, follow their counterparts in the House, and pass a bill that proves Republicans are committed to their small government rhetoric and are able to work in a bipartisan fashion to help average Texans, taxpayers, and law enforcement officers alike.
A meeting between the Lt. Governor and activists both within the YRs and RAMP remains on the table, and we hope to discuss why passing this bill is such a simple yet profound way to make Texas an even greater state. RAMP founder Ann Lee, who has been a dedicated conservative activist for most of her nearly 90 years on this planet, puts it well when she says there’s nothing conservative about marijuana prohibition, a substance proven to be safer than alcohol, and as Republicans, it’s our duty to change bad law. Every time we fail to do so, we cede more ground to Democrats; a mistake we can no longer afford to make.