AUSTIN, Texas - A proposal seeking full legalization of marijuana on religious grounds has cleared an unlikely legislative hurdle.
Republican state Rep. David Simpson of Longview argues marijuana comes from God and therefore shouldn't be banned by government.
The tea party stalwart has repeatedly championed what he calls the "Christian case" for legalization.
Simpson's bill (HB 2165) languished for weeks before the House Criminal Jurisprudence Committee.
Three committee Democrats and two Republicans surprisingly voted to support it Wednesday, though, and it passed 5-2.
That makes Simpson's bill eligible for consideration to reach the House floor before the legislative session ends June 1, although that's still highly unlikely.
State law currently makes no exceptions even for medical marijuana, making outright legalization unthinkable.
Still, advocates hailed the committee vote as "unprecedented progress" for Texas marijuana rights.
Nearly three out of five Texas voters (58%) support making marijuana legal for adults and regulating it like alcohol, according to a statewide survey conducted by Public Policy Polling in September 2013.
Four states have adopted laws that regulate and tax marijuana similarly to alcohol. Two of them, Colorado and Washington, have established regulated systems of marijuana cultivation and sales.
Alaska and Oregon are in the process of implementing similar systems.
Statement from Heather Fazio, Texas Political Director for the Marijuana Policy Project:
"Marijuana prohibition's days are numbered in the Lone Star State. Texas voters recognize that punishing adults for consuming a substance that is safer than alcohol is a waste of law enforcement resources and an affront to individual liberty. It appears most of the committee members agree.
"State officials are increasingly becoming fed up with the failed federal government policy of marijuana prohibition, and they're taking action. Like most Americans, most Texans are ready for a more sensible, fiscally sound.
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