SAN ANTONIO — The Texas Tribune reported Saturday that the Republican Party in Texas has endorsed decriminalizing marijuana. Texas Republicans voted to add decriminalizing marijuana to the Party's policy platform prior to the 2019 Legislative session.
Texas Republicans also voted to support proposals requesting the federal government remove marijuana from the Schedule 1 drug classification into a lower class. Marijuana is currently listed in the same class as the deadly drug heroin.
Also approved by the Texas Republican Party is support for drafting legislation that would improve the Texas Compassionate Use Act of 2015. The current law allows patients with intractable epilepsy to use a low-dose cannabis oil as a treatment, but the expansion would allow for doctors to decide which patients would benefit from cannabis.
Texas Republicans would decriminalize marijuana by making possession of one ounce or less of the drug a civil penalty. Instead of jail, the penalty would be about a $100 fine.
According to Forbes, Texas Republicans voted to pass decriminalizing marijuana by 81 percent. An expansion of the Compassionate Use Act passed by 90 percent, and reclassifying marijuana as a Schedule II drug passed by 82 percent.
More than 61 Percent of Texans Approve of Marijuana Legalization
The endorsement comes after a Quinnipiac University poll released in April found that at least 61 percent of Texans support legalizing recreational marijuana. At least 43 percent of Republicans support legalizing marijuana in the state, and all other groups under the age of 65 support marijuana legalization in Texas.
The move also comes just after 1,500 people marched in Fort Worth to advocate for the state to legalize marijuana. NORML spokesperson David Sloan was met with cheers as he spoke at the march and said that the time has come to vote for candidates who support marijuana legalization and to vote out the ones that ignore voters.
Rep. Robert "Beto" O'Rourke (D-El Paso) is running for the Senate against Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX). O'Rourke supports legalizing marijuana and is being endorsed by NORML's Political Action Committee.
Jax Finkel is the Executive Director of the Texas NORML and says that Texas has one of the highest arrest rates for marijuana possession, costing taxpayers 1.5 billion per year.
"Beto O'Rourke understands that our federal prohibition is a failed policy and it is past time for Congress to end it and allow states like Texas the freedom to pursue new, sensible alternatives," said Finkel.
O'Rourke said the federal prohibition on marijuana needs to end.
"Texas should be leading the way by encouraging comprehensive reforms in drug control policies that have had a devastating effect on communities of color," he said.
Texas Republicans also voted to include a proposal to urge the Legislature to pass a bill allowing the cultivation of hemp as an agricultural commodity. The vote received 83 percent approval. The Texas legislative session will begin next January.