Texas Rep. David Simpson (R) doesn’t believe God makes mistakes — not even with marijuana.
The tea party-supported politician’s proposal to legalize marijuana in the state for adults is controversial, and not just because of how sweeping it is. Simpson has urged his conservative Republican colleagues to support the legislation on the basic principle that government shouldn’t be in the business of outlawing plants that God made.
“I don’t believe that when God made marijuana, he made a mistake that government needs to fix,” Simpson wrote in a Texas Tribune editorial. “In the name of protecting the public, certain substances have been declared evil and contraband. So evil are these substances that state and federal agents are empowered to enforce laws with little to no regard for constitutional protection of individual rights, the sanctity of one’s home or the right to travel freely.”
On Wednesday, Simpson’s bill (HB 2165) cleared an incremental, but important hurdle: A majority of lawmakers in the legislature’s House Criminal Jurisprudence Committee voted in favor of sending the bill out of committee and on to the next step in the legislative process.
Of course, leaders of the Republican Party, which controls both chambers of the legislature, say the bill’s chances on the floor are slim — particularly given how little time is left in the legislative session.
But in an other surprise development, that same committee approved a separate bill aimed at decriminalizing small amounts of marijuana in the state this week, after successfully assuaging some Republican concerns about the measure.
Taken together, these developments say less about a seismic shift happening in Texas and more about the widespread shifting of views about marijuana across the rest of the country. Seeing this writing on the wall, some Texas lawmakers are now ready to simply talk about it.
“The move by the policymakers in that committee signaled to the House that it’s time to move this discussion front and center,” Rep. Joe Moody (D), vice chairman of the committee and sponsor of the decriminalization bill, told the Dallas Morning News. “We shouldn’t be absent from a conversation the whole country is having.”
The Washington Post noted in March that there are broader changing generational norms that are bound to sweep up even deep-red Texas:
There is a small but increasingly vocal share of Republicans who see the issue as one of government overreach. And their ranks — and influence — are growing.
As it stands, a strong majority of Republican millennials support legalizing the plant, according to a Pew Research survey: 63 percent of young Republicans support legalization, while 35 percent oppose it. And with millenials overtaking the baby boom generation in size, issues relevant to them will no doubt play a key role in the 2016 presidential election, Pew notes.
Texas’s legislative session ends in June, and the chances of the bill moving to the floor in that time are slim.
“Time is the issue now, not necessarily the subject matter,” House Criminal Jurisprudence Committee Chairman Todd Hunter (R) said, according to the San Angelo Standard-Times. Hunter voted in favor of Simpson’s bill to legalize marijuana.
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