Marijuana Liberalization Advocates Cheer Abbott's Change

One of the facts that came out of Friday night's debate between Gov. Abbott and long-shot Democratic challenger Lupe Valdez is the governor is shifting his position on marijuana penalties, News Radio 1200 WOAI reports.

After he signed a bill in 2015 allowing the use of non THC cannabidoil only for patients who suffer from a specific type of seizure disorder, Abbott declared that was 'as far as he was ready to go' to liberalize the state's marijuana laws.

But since then, the ground has been changing under Abbott's feet, with eight states, including California, now allowing recreational use of marijuana, and fully thirty allowing some form of medical use of the drug.

Abbott says he would be willing to move minor marijuana possession arrests form a Class B to a Class C misdemeanor, like a traffic ticket.

Healther Fazio of Texans for Responsible Marijuana Policy says its a start.

"This is a significant shift that sends a signal to lawmakers to start having this conversation," she said.

Many urban counties, including Bexar County, have already taken this action.  Bexar County's 'Cite and Release' policy essentially decriminalizes possession of small amounts of marijuana in certain cases.

But Fazio says this doesn't go far enough.

"It would remain a criminal penalty that comes along with collateral consequences like hindered access to education, employment, and housing," she said.

Not to mention that the law would continue to tie up police officers who should be dealing with serious crimes with writing up tickets for minor marijuana possession.

Texas currently arrests some 60,000 people a year on Class B marijuana possession charges.

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