Six Bills Take Aim at Marijuana Decriminalization in Texas

The most important of which is House Bill 81.

Texans have long understood their paradoxical role in American history. Generally speaking, they’re a wild and crazy bunch that embrace a culture of hard work, beer, and the raw power of being well armed. Hoping to modify that optic, at least in regards to marijuana reform, more than a few legislators in the Lone Star State are now feeling it’s time for some meaningful legislation.

That’s right ladies and gentlemen, just seven short days after California, Maine, Nevada and Massachusetts, passed their recreational marijuana ballot initiatives, some lawmakers from the border state of Texas are looking to provide cover for their constituents who choose to fire up.

Current Texas Marijuana Penalties

As it currently stands, Texas maintains the following penalties for marijuana possession:

Offense Penalty Incarceration   Max. Fine

Possession

2 oz or less Misdemeanor 180 days $ 2,000
2 – 4 oz Misdemeanor 1 year $ 4,000
4 oz to 5 lbs Felony 180 days* – 2 years $ 10,000
5 – 50 lbs Felony 2* – 10 years $ 10,000
50 – 2000 lbs Felony 2* – 20 years $ 10,000
More than 2000 lbs Felony 5* – 99 years $ 50,000

Potentially updating their archaic marijuana penalties and eliminating jail time for the misdemeanor possession of less than one ounce of weed, Texas politicians will address HB 81 when they reconvene during the 2017 legislative session.  As it’s currently written, House Bill 81 would significantly reduce the penalty for simple possession of less than one ounce of marijuana in Texas. Reducing it from a misdemeanor crime to a civil penalty, individuals caught with less than one ounce would be subjected to a $250 fine. And for those unfortunate individuals caught with more than one ounce of pot, the above penalties would remain in effect.

Texas Marijuana Decriminalization Proposals

Per the Texas Tribune, the following six proposals have already been filed and are now awaiting debate.

  • House Bill 58  – HB 58 would create a specialty court for certain first-time marijuana possession offenders based on the principle that first-time defendants are often self-correcting.
  • House Bill 81  – HB 81 hopes to replace criminal penalties for possession of up to an ounce of marijuana with a civil fine of up to $250.
  • House Bill 82  –  HB 82 seeks to reclassify a conviction for possession of one ounce or less of marijuana as a Class C misdemeanor instead of Class B.
  • Senate Bill 170 –  HB 170 would also change possession of one ounce or less of marijuana from a criminal offense to a civil one.
  • Senate Joint Resolution 17 –SJR 17 would allow Texans to vote on whether marijuana should be legalized in Texas.
  • Senate Joint Resolution 18 – SJR 18 would allow voters to decide whether to legalize marijuana for medical use if recommended by a health care provider.

A marijuana hellhole, or another state going through the Darwinian process of learning about the benefits of decriminalizing a peaceful plant? Only time will tell. Regardless of how the above proposals pan out, one thing is for sure, incarcerating otherwise productive citizens in the hopes of maintaining a political agenda is just this side of crazy, at least in my opinion.

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