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NORML continues fight for marijuana policy reform

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NORML continues fight for marijuana policy reform

Special to The Prospector

Special to The Prospector

Special to The Prospector

Andrea Valdez-Rivas, Reporter

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The El Paso chapter of the National Organization for Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) is moving to make Texas reform its marijuana laws and policies.

In a meeting held on Saturday, Sept. 22, at The Pizza Joint on Westwind Dr., El Paso NORML focused on the upcoming Texas elections, as they may have an impact on the progression of the legalization of marijuana in Texas.

El Paso NORML is treading on a mission to educate the public about legalizing the responsible use of marijuana by adults. But with the help of those in office, the movement to make Texas tree-friendly can gain more momentum. According to Colt DeMorris, executive director of El Paso NORML, people who share the same beliefs have to find initiative within themselves and push for candidates to do work for cannabis legalization.

“Right now, we’re working with local politicians and our state representatives, and also our state senator José Rodríguez, to advance during our legislative sessions,” DeMorris said. “Other than working with our representatives we’re out, educating the public. We have monthly meetings trying to reach out to the public, trying to educate them about policy reform here in Texas, how it works and stuff like that.”

In the upcoming Texas general elections, NORML hopes that Joe Moody will retain his seat as Texas House Rep., District 78. Moody has been instrumental in the headway of marijuana policy reform. Specifically, the decriminalization of possession of small amounts of marijuana.

“Joe Moody has, since 2015, been at the forefront of marijuana reform in Texas,” DeMorris told The Prospector. “So, to remove somebody like that from office at this point in time, it would set the movement back a couple steps.”

Three-term incumbent Joe Moody is running against Republican Jeffrey Lane this year. To Lane, the idea of decriminalization is not acceptable.

In 2016, Moody proposed a bill in the Texas Legislature that would replace criminal penalties for possession of up to an ounce of marijuana with a civil fine of up to $250. Known as House Bill 81, the bill proposed that if caught with a small amount of marijuana, no arrest would be made and no criminal record would follow. However, a midnight deadline passed without the full House taking up House Bill 81 for initial consideration.

According to Texas NORML, possession of two ounces or less of marijuana is a Class B misdemeanor, punishable by up to 180 days in prison and a fine of up to $2,000.

Possession between two to four ounces is a Class A misdemeanor, punishable by up to one-year in prison and a fine up to $4,000.  Possession between four ounces and five pounds is considered a felony.

Essentially, with more weed come more consequences. Cultivation in Texas will be punished based upon the aggregate weight of plants found, which coincides with the possession penalties. Even possession of paraphernalia is considered a Class C misdemeanor and is punishable with a fine not to exceed $500.

For this reason, deputy director of El Paso NORML, Valerie Hubbard, believes that safety is the most important thing for student marijuana users to know about.

“You don’t want to be smoking in fear. You want to be enjoying cannabis for your general well-being without the worry of a state-elected prison sentence or jail sentence or having your life ruined over something like that,” Hubbard said. “Students themselves need to get out and vote. They need to be a part of the political process, understand how it really works, understand what politics is about, and to understand that every choice in their life is political. The sooner one understands that politics is the way of life, it’s the only way we can get anything done.”

For more information on basic rights and laws, visit www.norml.org/texas.

Andrea Valdez-Rivas may be reached at theprospector1@gmail.com.

 

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NORML continues fight for marijuana policy reform