Criminal justice reform in the states: North Dakota legislature adopts two bills, Texas holds hearing on decriminalizing marijuana, and more

Find more updates on our legislative roundup page.

New Mexico

House Bill 57, the proposal to fully abolish felony disenfranchisement, moved past one House committee in January. But on Monday, the Judiciary Committee approved the bill while narrowing it: The amended version enfranchises people once they are released from prison, but not incarcerated people. State Representative Damon Ely, a Democrat who sits on both committees that heard the bill, had indicated during the aforementioned January hearing that he did not support incarcerated people’s voting rights. Still, this amended version is a major step as well. It would enfranchise people on parole and probation, who represent the vast majority of people disenfranchised in New Mexico, according to a Sentencing Project report.

New York
Assemblymember Dan Quart is once again pushing to repeal the state ban on owning “gravity knives,” Jon Campbell reports in The Appeal. It has swept up thousands “for owning what critics argue are common work tools,” Campbell writes. Governor Andrew Cuomo has previously vetoed bills reforming this, as the state’s district attorneys association urged him to.

North Dakota

The legislature overwhelmingly adopted two criminal justice bills last week.

House Bill 1183 ends mandatory minimum requirements for some offenses involving drug manufacturing and dealing.

House Bill 1039 raises to 10 from 7 the age at which children can be referred to the juvenile justice system. The Senate adopted the bill unanimously last week, a month after the House did so by an overwhelming majority. “To me, it still seems like 10 is quite young,” one lawmaker said during the House debates.

These bills now head to Governor Doug Burgum’s desk for his signature. [Update: Burgum signed both HB 1039 and HB 1183 on March 7.]

Texas

The state is considering a series of reforms to decriminalize marijuana and expand access to medical marijuana. On Monday, a legislative committee held a hearing on House Bill 63, which does the former. Heather Fazio, director of Texans for Responsible Marijuana Policy, told Marijuana Moment that the bill’s goals are “to see no arrests, no jail time and most importantly no criminal records.” Marijuana Moment writes that House Bill 63 would reduce possession of up to one ounce of marijuana it to a civil offense punishable with a fine. However, prosecutors could still file misdemeanor charges for a third possession violation. Michael Arria reports in The Appeal that the Sheriffs’ Association of Texas is an obstacle to reforming marijuana laws.