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One of Denton’s own drafts bill, calls for reduction in severity of cannabis concentrate charges

One of Denton’s own drafts bill, calls for reduction in severity of cannabis concentrate charges

November 12
00:57 2015

Kyle Martin | Staff Writer

@Kyle_Martin35

Denton local Marshall Williams has crafted a bill to push for reducing the severity of charges on marijuana concentrates, such as naturally extracted oils and waxes.

“This is not a medical marijuana bill,” Williams said. “This bill is strictly a criminal reform bill that says we’re taking people with marijuana and putting them on probation, and taking people with the same amount of hashish and throwing them in jail for two years [with a felony]. And that’s ridiculous.”

Hashish, which stems from the Arabic word meaning “dry weed,” is a type of marijuana concentrate that is made by compressing the flower of female cannabis plants.

In Texas, possession of less than a single gram of a marijuana concentrate will earn the offender, now a felon, anywhere from 180 days to up to two years of incarceration, with a maximum fine of $10,000. However, this is only for marijuana concentrates. With just the plant alone, someone would have to posses anywhere from 4 ounces to 5 pounds or sell anywhere from 7 grams to 5 pounds to receive the same charge.

In the eyes of the Texas law, the plant concentrate is worthy of harsher punishment than the plant itself. Williams is looking to rewrite the legislation that dishes out the felonies.

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Marshall Williams smiles in his home office after working on his bills Monday night. Kristen Watson | Visuals Editor

“A big part of this is just common sense,” Williams said.

The focus of the bill is not to push either for medicinal use or for a complete revamp of all marijuana legislation, but is rather a call to lessen the penalties of possession and garner a greater acceptance of the concentrate in general.

The cannabis advocate summarized the bill, saying, “This bill’s purpose is to reclassify all natural marijuana extracts that do not fall under the current definition of marijuana under Texas law to meet the definition of ‘hashish’ and will apply similar criminal penalties for possession of such substances when compared to the same weight to purity ratio of whole plant cannabis flowers.”

Caroline Turner, an international relations sophomore at North Central Texas College, said she sees significant potential in the push for the legalization of marijuana and Williams’ bill.

Williams and Turner are the two co-founders behind Denton NORML, a subchapter of DFW NORML (National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws). Together, the couple strives for the legal acceptance and recognition of responsible cannabis use.

“When we get upset about something, we say, ‘Let’s write a bill about it,’” Turner said.

Turner thinks police officers should be held accountable for taking care of crimes that she believes should receive more attention than a minor pot case. Nonviolent and violent crime arrest competition is currently a highly debated topic. President Obama is making a conscious effort to rid prisons of inmates convicted of minor, nonviolent drug offenses in order to make room for more serious offenders.

Turner said he hopes this bill will help police officers make more productive and economic decisions in their arrests.

“It’s about making sure the police are efficient,” Turner said.

An article published in 2014 by “The Daily Texan” arguing for the decriminalization of marijuana details the damage done to taxpayers’ pocketbooks by arrests for possession of cannabis. According to the article, “it costs taxpayers $120 to arrest and book one person in an urban Texas county, and then another $62.97 for each day that the individual is detained. In 2011, Texas jails housed an average of 60,000 inmates a day: That’s $3,788,200 per day spent on incarceration.”

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Marshall Williams, right, and Caroline Turner work on researching legal terms as Williams works on his bill Monday night. Kristen Watson | Visuals Editor

The life of any politician can be hectic and taxing and often does not allow for time to sit down and draft legislation, Williams said. He sees the challenges and difficulties of being strapped for time, and has drafted this bill hoping that lawmakers will take his dedication into account.

“What I’ve now done is I’ve taken my time,” Williams said. “I’ve written the bill. I’ve given them a package deal; [they] can put it up on the floor. All they have to do is present it on my behalf.”

Denton NORML is not officially affiliated with Williams’ bill, but Turner, the group’s president, says if the group collectively sees potential behind the bill’s contents, they will support it.. The DFW subchapter also has an executive board, which includes director of public education Sarah Paterson.

Paterson is in charge of gathering scholarly articles that hold studies and arguments for members and cannabis supporters alike to read and share with community members. She educates people in responsible and mature marijuana use.

“I think that we need a lot more education [regarding cannabis], and that’s what Denton NORML is here for,” Paterson said. “We have some really dedicated and really intelligent people involved in Denton NORML.”

The organization looks to spread awareness about responsible marijuana use and frequently hosts public events throughout the year. One event was a benefit concert for Team Alexis at Andy’s Bar in July 2014.

Alexis Bortell takes Kristen Watson | Visuals Editor

Alexis Bortell, of Team Alexis, takes her night dose of her whole-plant cannabis oil in her new home in Colorado. The Bortell’s are just one family forced to move to gain legal access to the oil. Kristen Watson | Visuals Editor

Team Alexis is an organization that fights for patients’ right to cannabis in Texas, drawing inspiration from a 10-year-old girl, Alexis Bortell, who found refuge in Colorado’s recreational marijuana use allowances. Alexis suffered from epileptic seizures and found no significant cure until she and her family tried medicating her with cannabis treatments.

Paterson, along with Turner and Williams, have a distinct desire to help the community of Denton and help facilitate a better future.

“It’s about Denton. It’s about this city that we all love and have grown up in,” Paterson said. “We all love Denton very much, and we’re looking forward to whatever amazing future it has.”

The bill, which does not yet have a name can be found at mwthink.net, the official website of Marshall Williams.

Featured Image: Marshall Williams, co-founder of Denton NORML, is writing a bill that will lessen the penalty for cannabis concentrates. Kristen Watson | Visuals Editor 

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