If you have not yet contacted your legislators regarding HB 184/594, please see the steps listed below this paragraph. If you have already been in contact with your legislators, it is important to follow up with their office regularly but not bug them too much. Remember, the legislative session is over in May, so we have a limited time to get support for the bills. When new developments occur that add support to our position (studies, progress in other areas, elected officials or public personalities coming out in support of marijuana policy reform) or relate to the progression of the bills (upcoming committee meetings, new co-authors), it is appropriate to call the office, ask for the staffer who handles issues for the committee where the bill is held (Criminal Jurisprudence for HB 184 and Public Health for HB 594), and fill them in on the new development. Ask for an update on the Representative or Senator’s stance on HB 184/594 and reiterate why you believe those bills would be good for Texas. There is also value in calling the staffer every couple of weeks to remind them that marijuana policy should be a priority in this legislative session.
If you have not yet contacted your lawmakers, here are some key points, and then remember to follow up!
1. Look up and save the names and contact information of your state legislators
-Visit Texas Legislature Online at http://www.capitol.state.tx.us/
-Locate the “Who Represents Me” section of the page. This is in the blue column on the far right side, 4th rectangle down.
-Enter your address, city, and zip code. Click submit.
-Carefully record your District number, Capitol and/or district addresses, and the name and phone numbers of your Texas State Senator and Texas State Representative. You may want to save this information on your phone, or as a Word Document, print it, and put it in an easily accessible location. The names and contact information of my state legislators can be found hanging by my desk, attached by magnet to my refrigerator, and saved on my hard drive!
2. Become familiar with, write down, and commit to memory the key provisions of the bills reforming marijuana laws in the 83rd Legislative Session: House Bill 184 and House Bill 594. You can also review the full text of the bills by searching “HB 184” or “HB 594” on the home page of the Legislature’s website, listed above.
-House Bill 184
-filed by State Rep. Harold Dutton (D-Houston)
-referred to the House Committee on Criminal Jurisprudence
-Under present law, the possession of up to two ounces of cannabis is classified as a Class B misdemeanor publishable by up to 180 days in jail and a $2,000 fine.
-Passage of HB 184 would reduce the penalty for up to one ounce of cannabis to a Class C misdemeanor with a maximum fine of $500 and no jail time (if more than 3 offenses within 2 years, subsequent offenses would revert to Misdemeanor B).
-House Bill 594
-filed by State Rep. Elliot Naishtat
-referred to House Committee on Public Health
-Would allow individuals charged with marijuana possession to present a licensed physician’s recommendation to use medicinal marijuana as a defense in court.
-Would prevent law enforcement agencies from initiating investigations into licensed physicians solely on the grounds that the physician discussed marijuana as a treatment option or stated that the potential benefits of using marijuana would likely outweigh the health risks for a particular patient.
3. Access the Texas Legislators’ Education Package athttp://gallery.mailchimp.com/e4aca1c966ccd90236d5751a0/files/Texas_Legislators_Education_Package_2013_Session_Texas_NORML.pdf
-Download the Texas Legislator’s Education Package by right-clicking it, hitting “Save As”, and saving it as a PDF.
4. Call the offices of your State Rep. and State Senator and ask for their support on HB 184 and HB 594. You can make the ask in several ways:
-Ideally, you’ll be able to call their offices and set up a face-to-face meeting with the legislator or their staffer who handles bills in the Criminal Jurisprudence Committee and the Public Health Committee. This can be done either at the Capitol or at their district office. You’ll want to call and say something along the lines of “Hi my name is __________, I’m a constituent in District ____, and I’d like to schedule a meeting with your office regarding HB 184 and HB 594.” Before your meeting, make sure to be prepared with talking points from the Texas Legislators’ Education Package. On the day of your meeting, dress professionally in business or business casual. Make sure to show up at least 5 minutes before your scheduled meeting. Introduce yourself to the staff in the office and let them know who you are there to see, thank them for meeting with you. Carefully explain the bills and how they would benefit Texas using talking points from the Texas Legislators’ Education Package and/or personal stories. Ask them for the Representative or Senator’s perspective on marijuana policy and the bills. If you are meeting with your State Representative’s staff, you’ll want to ask them to co-author the bill(s) or if you are meeting with your State Senator’s staff, ask if they will sponsor a bill in the Senate. Make sure to thank them again after the meeting, sign the visitor’s guest book, give them your card or contact info, ask for their card, and tell them that you’ll be following up.
-If you can’t get a face-to-face meeting, you can ask for the email address of the staffer who handles the bills in these two committees. It’s recommended that you attach the Texas Legislators’ Education Package as a PDF and also include talking points on the bill(s) in the body of your email. When writing your legislators and their staff, please follow the steps listed in the face-to-face meeting instructions above.
-Another option is to have a phone conversation with the staffer who handles bills in the two committees. Be prepared to have this conversation on your initial call to the office. You can pull talking points directly from the Texas Legislators’ Education Package and/or tell a personal story that explains why HB 184/594 are sensible approaches to marijuana policy in Texas. On your phone call, please follow the steps listed in the face-to-face meeting instructions above.
If you’re looking to see Texas take a step forward on marijuana policy, please follow the steps above and ask your contacts around the state to do the same! Thank you so much for working with Texas NORML to improve marijuana policy in the Lone Star State!