Articles Tagged with “Texas Legislature”

2017 Held a lot of promise for marijuana reform. Texans across the state and political spectrum flooded legislator’s offices and phones with a clear and concise message, “We want marijuana law reform now.” Unfortunately, as the session ended, it became clear that the Texas legislature was deaf to the voice of the Texas people.

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The Groundwork

The push for marijuana law reform during the 85th Texas Legislative session began back in 2016, when advocacy groups focused on laying the political groundwork for marijuana law reform. Advocacy groups worked hard to amend the Texas Republican Party platform[1] to call for a complete overhaul of the Texas Compassionate use act of 2015, Texas’s anemic medical marijuana program. Advocates also hit the streets supporting and donating to pro marijuana reform candidates during the 2016 election cycle. As 2016 ended, the groundwork for real reform had been laid, and advocates across the state were optimistically looking forward to the 2017 legislative cycle.

dreamstime_xs_22155154.jpgDespite a relatively low crime rate during the last decade, between 1970 and 2010, Texas’ prison population increased by 995%, even though the state’s population only increased by 124% during that same time period. However, Texas’ record-setting incarceration rates are not accidental–meaning this trend can still be reversed. Critics of excessive legislation and prosecutorial strategies such as mandatory minimum sentences stress that our excessive prison population is a direct result of the Texas Legislature constantly criminalizing new acts. Over the last decade, the Legislature has created an average of 40 new felonies during each legislative session while simultaneously increasing penalties for existing crimes. At present, Texas recognizes over 2,500 felony crimes.

Another prime contributor to Texas’ prison population explosion is unarguably the U.S.’s failed war on drugs. At this point, we can all agree that “prison therapy” is hugely ineffective in helping defendants cope with addiction. Considering the fact that over 70,000 people both enter and leave Texas state prisons every year, only 22% of which have been convicted of a violent crime. It should be imperative that we are taking steps to treat and reform inmates during their served time, rather than hoping that imprisonment itself is enough to deter addiction and future bad behavior. Treating a public health problem as a criminal problem is not going to end substance addiction, especially when past imprisonment keeps a person disenfranchised within their community, often without the ability to find a job or place to live. And all too often, the communities that are most impacted by this injustice are young minorities, with a new study finding that by age 23, 49% of black males and 44% of Hispanic males have been arrested, compared with only 38% of white males.

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