Supporters of recreational cannabis may soon be able to legally light up in Texas. That’s because the state’s House of Representatives is scheduled to consider HB 81, legislation that would decriminalize marijuana.
The Ron Paul Institute reports that on Monday, the legislation flew past the committee with GOP support. As a result, Texas is now one of many states considering decriminalizing a plant which has killed 0 people and is known to benefit conditions such as cancer, seizures and depression.
HB 81 was introduced by El Paso democratic representative Joe Moody. If passed, the legislation would prevent the incarceration of people solely for possessing one ounce or less of usable marijuana. It would also protect individuals from a criminal conviction and prison time. However, there is a catch: police would still be able to seize a person’s stash as well as issue them a ticket that may lead to a citation of up to $250.
At present, if a person is caught with one ounce or less of marijuana in the state, they could be charged with a Class B misdemeanor and face up to six months in jail. Arguing against the state’s present policy on marijuana, spokesperson for Texans for Responsible Marijuana Policy Heather Fazio said, “The state’s current policy of arresting and jailing people for simple marijuana possession is completely unwarranted. Law enforcements officials’ time and limited resources would be better spent addressing serious crimes.”
Fazio added, “No one should be saddled with a lifelong criminal record simply for possessing a substance that is less harmful than alcohol.”
Marijuana.com reports, “A last minute change to the bill to gain GOP support allows a judge to raise the offense to a Class C misdemeanor if the individual caught has previously been cited three times for low-level cannabis possession.” According to Moody, frequent customers can expect to be “moved into the criminal area.” It was this revision that helped the bill pass the House Criminal Jurisprudence Committee with a 4-2 bipartisan vote, however.
HB 81 will now advance to the Calendars Committee which is composed of 10 Republicans and 5 Democrats. If the Calendars Committee feels optimistic about the passing of the legislation, marijuana will be one step closer to being decriminalized in the Lone Star state.