Austin, Texas (CBS HOUSTON) — A proposal which would make Texas the fifth state in the U.S. to legalize recreational marijuana use was approved in a bipartisan House panel vote – with the bill’s author citing his Christian values as cause for his support.
Being hailed as a historic victory and a surprise to Lone Star state lawmakers, the Texas House Criminal Jurisprudence Committee approved a bill Wednesday that would make it legal to buy and sell marijuana in Texas, the Houston Chronicle reports. The panel’s three Democrats were joined by two Republicans to give House Bill 2165 a “decisive 5-2 victory.”
The panel’s move in support of recreational marijuana legalization comes two days after their 4-2 vote in favor of a bill to decriminalize marijuana – the first such proposal to make it out of a Texas legislative committee.
And although the bill is not expected to survive the full path to becoming a law in this legislative session, Texas anti-drug law advocates are labeling the move as historic.
“Marijuana policy reform continues to make unprecedented progress this session,” Phillip Martin of the liberal group Progress Texas tweeted after the vote.
Authored by Republican David Simpson of Longview, House Bill 2165 is listed as “an Act relating to repealing marihuana offenses.” The bill seeks to have those convicted of a first-time “state jail felony” to have their sentence suspended and instead be placed “on community supervision,” along with providing probationary protections to students and minors. The bill passed its final vote after tweaking language to ensure it would remain illegal for minors to consume marijuana without parental supervision.
The deeply conservative, Tea Party-backed Simpson explained in an op-ed last month that his belief in God, distrust of government and criticism of the “War on Drugs” led him to sponsor the marijuana legalization bill.
“As a Christian, I recognize the innate goodness of everything God made and humanity’s charge to be stewards of the same,” wrote Simpson. “I don’t believe that when God made marijuana he made a mistake that government needs to fix.”
Simpson was joined by fellow Republican Todd Hunter of Corpus Christi in support of House Bill 2165. Committee chairman Abel Herrero of Robstown was joined by fellow Democratic lawmakers Joe Moody of El Paso and Terry Canales of Edinburg in favor of marijuana legalization.
Republicans Matt Shaheen and Jeff Leach, both of Plano, voted no on the bill.