Bipartisan support for reducing pot penalties in the 83rd Texas Legislature

The always excellent Grits for Breakfast gives us some hope for HB 184.

Given that experience, I’ve believed for awhile that, if given the chance, Texas’ Republican majority, at least in the House, would likely support lowering the penalty categories for low-level pot possession. There are so many new members who’ve arrived since then that Grits doesn’t have as good a sense of what a final head count might look like. (State Rep. Debbie Riddle is the only member remaining from that unanimous committee vote.) But with the Texas Association of Business and the Texas Public Policy Foundation providing conservative ideological cover and a different Speaker in power, the 83rd Texas Legislature would be an excellent time to find out.

There’s an interesting wrinkle to this that has lots of businesses supporting lesser penalties. Anti-immigration fervor and the bad economy have driven and deported lots of laborers back to Mexico. Companies trying to hire legal residents to take up the slack are finding that most applicants cannot be hired because they have criminal records, for petty pot possession. Oops.

Not only do US-born workers not necessarily have the same skill sets as the supposedly unskilled workers who “went back to their home countries” when the economy crashed, many Texans can’t even pass the initial screening to get hired, whether because of a criminal history or a dirty urinalysis. Jan Maly, CEO of a specialty contractor in Houston, told NPR that criminal background checks and drug tests disqualified three out of five applicants.