The Latest: Texas’ GOP Senate leader says pot bill ‘dead’
AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — The Latest on the Texas Legislature’s attempt to lessen criminal penalties for possession of small amounts of marijuana (all times local):
Texas’ Republican lieutenant governor says he won’t support reducing penalties for small amounts of marijuana, calling it “a step toward legalization.”
Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick’s opposition Tuesday followed a historic vote in the GOP-controlled Texas House to make possession of an ounce or less of the drug to a Class C misdemeanor.
Patrick, the Senate leader, called the bill “dead.” His disapproval underscores the resistance by Texas GOP leaders to relaxing marijuana laws even as the drug becomes increasingly legal elsewhere in the U.S.
A Democrat who originally pushed a decriminalization bill said political realities in the Texas Capitol forced him to weaken his measure ahead of the House vote.
Gov. Greg Abbott signaled his support last year for reducing penalties to a lower misdemeanor but stopped short of publicly endorsing decriminalization.
Texas’ tough stance on marijuana as pot in the U.S. becomes increasingly legal has grounded a bipartisan push in the state to decriminalize minor offenses.
It all but ensures that Texas will remain in the company of more than a dozen states where possessing any amount of pot can result in a criminal record. A Democrat leading the decriminalization effort said political realities in the Texas Capitol forced him to weaken his bill ahead of a key House vote.
The chamber passed the measure on a 98-43 vote on Monday.
The revised measure would reduce penalties for those with an ounce or less of marijuana to a Class C misdemeanor, eliminating arrests but still making possession a crime.
Failure of the bill’s original language underscores how politically resistant Texas’ GOP leaders are to relaxing marijuana laws.