Lawmakers of all political stripes were chomping at the bit this session to file — or sign onto — bills that would decriminalize or lessen the criminal penalties for Texans found with small amounts of marijuana.
Getting such a measure across the finish line seemed feasible with newfound support from Republican leaders that have long controlled the Texas Legislature. In their most recent platform, the Republican Party of Texas approved a plank for the first time supporting making it a civil, rather than a criminal, offense to possess an ounce or less of marijuana. Months later during a gubernatorial debate, Gov. Greg Abbott wouldn’t go that far — but he opened the door to reducing penalties for low-level possession of marijuana from a Class B to a Class C misdemeanor.
Since the session began, lawmakers have heard from law enforcement, people arrested for marijuana-related charges and even people who smoke recreationally. They’ve explained why they believe the drug should be decriminalized — or why Texas’ laws should stay as they are.
With Abbott and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick both opposed to legalization, it’s unlikely Texas will become the next Colorado or California anytime soon. But when it comes to loosening criminal penalties or expanding medicinal use, how much of what each side says is true?