Texas: Provocative Marijuana TV Ad To Begin Airing As Lawmakers Consider Reducing Penalties

Texas360,000+ArrestsForMarijuanaPossessionFrom2009-2013

A provocative television ad in support of legislation to reduce penalties for simple marijuana possession in Texas began airing Tuesday in the state’s four largest media markets.

The ad is scheduled to air on CNN, ESPN, and Fox News Channel across Dallas-Fort Worth, Houston, San Antonio, and Austin through Thursday at midnight, the deadline by which the House must approve HB 507 in order for it to advance to the Senate.

You can watch the ad below, or online at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E83Uv4VtpsE.

In the ad, Russell Jones, a Texas Hill Country resident who served 10 years as a police officer and narcotics detective in California, highlights the relative safety of marijuana compared to alcohol and says limited law enforcement resources should not be wasted on arresting and jailing people for using the less harmful substance.

“I know of no instance in my entire career where someone was acting out under the influence of marijuana,” Jones says. “People under the influence of alcohol are much more problematic.

"Law enforcement officials have more important things to do with their time than arrest people for marijuana possession," Jones says in the ad. "They need to be there to protect the public, to respond to crimes such as robbery, burglaries, rape, and murders.”

The ad cites annual arrest reports produced by the Texas Department of Public Safety that show more than 360,000 arrests for marijuana possession were made in Texas from 2009-2013.

“Our state cannot afford to keep arresting people and putting them in jail for marijuana possession,” Jones says. “It’s time for a more sensible approach.”

HB 507, authored by Rep. Joe Moody (D-El Paso), would remove the threat of arrest, jail time, and a criminal record for possession of up to one ounce of marijuana and replace them with a civil fine of up to $250. Under current Texas law, individuals found in possession of less than two ounces of marijuana can be arrested and given a criminal record, and they face up to six months in jail and a fine of up to $2,000.

The Texas House Committee on Criminal Jurisprudence approved the measure last week.

“This is commonsense legislation that is intended to reduce government waste and improve public safety,” said Heather Fazio, Texas political director for the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP), which produced the ad on behalf of the coalition. “Voters want law enforcement officials to spend their time and resources addressing serious crimes, not arresting and jailing adults for simple marijuana possession.

"We hope the House will pass this important legislation before time runs out,” Fazio said.

Three out of five Texas voters (61 percent) support reducing the punishment for simple marijuana possession to a civil fine with no possibility of jail time, according to a September 2013 survey conducted by Public Policy Polling. Only 30 percent said they were opposed.

Texans for Responsible Marijuana Policy is a broad coalition of organizations, activists, and community leaders dedicated to realizing effective, efficient, and evidence-based marijuana policies in Texas. For more information, visit http://www.TexasMarijuanaPolicy.org .