Lawmakers in Texas are supporting marijuana normalization efforts in the state, as members on both sides of the aisle are backing plans to decriminalize possession of small amounts of cannabis, the American-Statesman reports.
Republican State Rep. Jason Isaac said that changes to the drug laws could be a boon for Texas businesses because many citizens are denied jobs due to criminal records for nonviolent drug charges. He said he plans on supporting decriminalization bills in the upcoming legislative session, which begins in January.
“They are branded that way forever, and that should not be the case,” Issac said. “…Ideally, you’d like it to be retroactive.”
Issac, a two-term representative who serves on the Economic and Small Business Development Committee, said he has spoken with managers who are frustrated that they cannot hire people with drug convictions, noting he has seen qualified applicants disqualified over nonviolent possession charges.
However, even if decriminalization legislation passes, employers are not obligated to ignore minor possession tickets and they could still choose not to hire an applicant because of a simple citation.
The Texas Association of Businesses supports decriminalization in the state. Bill Hammond, president and CEO of the association, said it is “ridiculous” to arrest and jail people for minor possession offenses.
“Possession of small amounts of marijuana should be a ticketing offense,” he said.
Democratic State Rep. Joe Moody plans to introduce decriminalization legislation for the upcoming session — he sponsored a measure to remove criminal penalties for possession of 1 ounce or less in 2015. His plan calls for community service and counseling in lieu of incarceration.
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