Prohibition

Texas Marijuana Penalty Reduction Bill Advances

A proposal to reduce penalties for marijuana possession in Texas received bipartisan approval from the House Criminal Jurisprudence Committee on Monday and will soon be scheduled for a full vote in the House. The measure passed by a vote of 4-2, receiving support from two Democrats and two Republicans.

HB 81, authored by committee Chairman Joe Moody (D-El Paso) and Rep. Jason Isaac (R-Dripping Springs) with 37 co-authors, would remove the threat of arrest, jail time, and a criminal record for possession of up to one ounce of marijuana and replace them with a civil fine of up to $250. Under current Texas law, individuals found in possession of less than two ounces of marijuana can be arrested and given a criminal record, and they face up to six months in jail and a fine of up to $2,000.

“This is a bipartisan proposal that represents a moderate shift in how Texas manages low-level marijuana offenses,” said Heather Fazio, a spokesperson for Texans for Responsible Marijuana Policy in a press release. “The state’s current policy of arresting and jailing people for simple marijuana possession is completely unwarranted. Law enforcement officials’ time and limited resources would be better spent addressing serious crimes."

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Prohibition

Texas Committee Approves Bill to Reduce Marijuana Penalties

A proposal to reduce penalties for marijuana possession in Texas received bipartisan approval from the House Criminal Jurisprudence Committee on Monday and will soon be scheduled for a full vote in the House. The measure passed by a vote of 4-2, receiving support from two Democrats and two Republicans.

HB 81, authored by committee Chairman Joe Moody (D-El Paso) and Rep. Jason Isaac (R-Dripping Springs) with 37 co-authors, would remove the threat of arrest, jail time, and a criminal record for possession of up to one ounce of marijuana and replace them with a civil fine of up to $250. Under current Texas law, individuals found in possession of less than two ounces of marijuana can be arrested and given a criminal record, and they face up to six months in jail and a fine of up to $2,000.

Heather Fazio, spokesperson for Texans for Responsible Marijuana Policy, released the following statement:

“This is a bipartisan proposal that represents a moderate shift in how Texas manages low-level marijuana offenses. The state’s current policy of arresting and jailing people for simple marijuana possession is completely unwarranted. Law enforcement officials’ time and limited resources would be better spent addressing serious crimes.

No one should be saddled with a lifelong criminal record simply for possessing a substance that is less harmful than alcohol,” Fazio said. “Texans overwhelmingly agree that the punishment for simple marijuana possession should be reduced to a simple fine.”

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Prohibition

Bills to Reduce Marijuana Penalties Introduced in Texas

Nov. 14 was the first day bills could be filed in Texas for the 2017 legislative session, and Rep. Joe Moody (D-El Paso) didn’t waste any time. He introduced HB 81, which would replace possible arrests and jail time with a civil fine for low-level possession of marijuana. As a former prosecutor and the current Vice Chairman of the Criminal Jurisprudence Committee, Rep. Moody is a champion of sensible marijuana policy because he has seen how current laws are failing our communities.

[caption id="attachment_10160" align="alignright" width="150"]moody Rep. Joe Moody[/caption]

Sen. Jose Rodríguez, also of El Paso, introduced a Senate companion bill, SB 170.
The bill, which is co-sponsored by Rep. Jason Isaac (R-Dripping Springs), would make possession of one ounce or less of marijuana a non-criminal offense punishable by a fine of $250. Under current law, possession of two ounces or less is a Class A misdemeanor punishable by up to a $2,000 fine and 180 days in jail.
In addition to preventing arrests and traumatic incarceration, reducing possession to a civil penalty would stop marking marijuana consumers for life with a devastating criminal record that can derail dreams. Collateral consequences from a conviction include limiting access to higher education, employability, and occupational licensing — plus, it results in the automatic suspension of a person's drivers license. These penalties are harsh and unreasonable.

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