On Friday, Dallas — Texas’ third largest city — implemented a policy that instructs police officers to issue citations and a summons to appear in court, rather than arresting those found in possession of marijuana. This new policy will spare people an initial trip to jail, which is a step in the right direction. However, individuals still face all the same criminal penalties, including up to six months in jail, up to $2,000 in fines, and a lasting criminal record.
In Texas, a criminal record carries the following collateral consequences:
-Hindered access to employment
-Diminished educational opportunities
-Impeded housing options
-Jeopardized parental rights
-Suspended drivers license (six months)
-Obstructed right to self defense/ license to carry (five years)
To see meaningful changes to marijuana laws in Texas, we must change the unreasonable statewide policies that allow for such harsh penalties.
If you are a Texas resident, please contact your legislators now in support of more reasonable penalties for marijuana possession.
Last week, the D.C. Committee on Judiciary and Public Safety voted unanimously to support B20-467, legislation that would allow individuals to file a motion to seal records relating to offenses that were subsequently decriminalized or legalized. This would allow individuals who were arrested for simple possession of marijuana to have their records sealed. If Initiative 71 passes this November (and, with 65% support, it seems likely), this bill will allow even more individuals with nonviolent marijuana charges to have those sealed as well.
If you are a D.C. resident, please email your councilmember and urge him or her to support this bill. Enactment of B20-467 will help curtail the life-altering collateral consequences a marijuana arrest carries with it. Criminal records are often used to keep otherwise qualified candidates from obtaining employment or even housing. Please raise your voice so that District residents aren’t marked for life for having used a substance that most Americans believe should be legal.
“I don’t have a position on whether to legalize it or not, but we should have that discussion,” Gray told News Channel 8.
He said that the topic is an important one because current prohibitionist policies result in harmless young people getting criminal records.
The mayor’s statement comes after growing call for reform in the District. On July 10, D.C. Councilmember and mayoral candidate Tommy Wells proposed legislation to remove criminal penalties for the possession of less than an ounce of marijuana.