Marijuana Decriminalization Ads Airing Throughout Texas

By McCarton Ackerman 05/14/15

Pro-marijuana advertising is popping up in the most unlikely places.

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In perhaps the most drastic push towards decriminalizing marijuana possession throughout Texas, cable television ads supporting that effort are now running in several of the state’s largest cities.

Pro-pot commercials are scheduled to air on CNN, ESPN, and Fox News in cities including Austin, Houston, San Antonio, and Dallas-Fort Worth. They're in support of House Bill 507, which would make having an ounce or less of marijuana a mere citation offense and remove any possibilities for jail time, arrest or a criminal record. A civil fine of up to $250 would be imposed instead. Current state laws allow anyone possessing two ounces or less of pot to face up to six months in jail and a fine of up to $2,000.

Russell Jones, a former narcotics officer in California and current resident in Texas Hill Country, is featured in the ad. He told San Antonio news station KSAT that although he’s in support of full marijuana legalization, getting the decriminalization bill passed is an essential first step.

“I think people in Texas are ready to have this discussion,” he said. “Law enforcement officials have more important things to do with their time [than marijuana cases]. They need to be there to protect the public, to respond to crimes such as robberies, burglaries, rapes and murders.”

The Texas Department of Public Safety reported that 70,000 people were arrested on marijuana charges throughout the state. But Bexar County Sheriff Susan Pamerleau said that a very small percentage of these arrests led to jail time or significant punishment. She claimed that those who did end up in jail in her area were only there because the marijuana charge made them “[ineligible] to bond out, because they had violated a condition of their pretrial release or probation.”

The Texas House has until Thursday at midnight to approve House Bill 507 so that it may advance to the Senate.

Jones isn’t the only unlikely pro-marijuana supporter in the state. Last March, Republican lawmaker David Simpson used the Bible to justify regulating marijuana throughout the state. He introduced a bill that would completely remove any reference to marijuana from Texas law, stating that “what’s so incredible to me is that we want to eliminate something that God made.”

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McCarton Ackerman is a freelance writer and editor living in Portland, Oregon. He has been a contributor for The Fix since October 2011, writing on a wide range of topics ranging from medical marijuana in Colorado to the world's sexiest drug smugglers. Follow him on Linkedin and Twitter.