In a surprise move that supporters hailed as a historic victory, the Texas House Criminal Jurisprudence Committee approved legislation Wednesday that would make it legal to buy and sell marijuana in the state.
Two Republicans joined with the panel’s three Democrats in support, giving House Bill 2165 a decisive 5-2 victory.
The proposal, which would make Texas the fifth state in America to OK pot for recreational purposes, has virtually no chance of clearing any other hurdles on the path to becoming law in this year’s legislative session.
Still, advocates described the committee vote as a big step toward future success.
“Marijuana policy reform continues to make unprecedented progress this session,” Phillip Martin of the liberal group Progress Texas tweeted just after the vote.
The move came just two days after the same panel voted 4-2 in favor of a bill to decriminalize marijuana, marking the first time such a proposal had made it out of a Texas legislative committee.
House Bill 2165, while more of a dramatic change, did even better Wednesday, drawing support from Republicans David Simpson of Longview and Todd Hunter of Corpus Christi. Committee chairman Abel Herrero, D-Robstown, vice chair Joe Moody, D-El Paso and member Terry Canales, D-Edinburg also voted in support.
Herrero said he had some reservations with the bill but would support it in the hopes it could be improved.
Simpson, a deeply conservative member supported by the tea party, sponsored the bill. In an opinion piece published last month, he explained that, “I don’t believe that when God made marijuana he made a mistake that government needs to fix.”
Plano Republicans Matt Shaheen and Jeff Leach voted no.
The final vote came after the committee tweaked the bill to make clear that marijuana would still be illegal to consume for minors, except with parental supervision.
It will next go to the committee that controls the state House floor calendar.