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Five Bills That Could Change Texas Marijuana Laws Next Year

On November 8, 2016, California, Nevada, Maine and Massachusetts voters approved recreational marijuana initiatives. This move added them to the expanding list of states, including Washington and Colorado, that have already authorized marijuana for recreational purposes.

A few weeks after these approvals, some Lone Star State legislators are seeking to do the same. On the first day of filing the bills for the 2017 legislative session, Texas lawmakers submitted various proposals to decriminalize possession of small amounts of marijuana.

House Bill 58

This bill has been filed by the state Rep. James White (R-Woodville). The proposal would create a court for first-time marijuana possession lawbreakers. The bill, which is based on the principle that these offenders are usually self-correcting, aims at conserving law enforcement and corrections resources.

House Bill 81

Proposed by Rep. Joseph Moody (D-El Paso), this bill intends to replace criminal punishments for possession of less than an ounce of marijuana with a civil fine of $250.

House Bill 82

The proposal, which was filed by Rep Harold Dutton Jr. (D-Houston), aims at reclassifying the sentence for possession of less than an ounce of marijuana as a Class C offense rather than a Class B misdemeanor. Nevertheless, if an individual is convicted three times, then the misdemeanor would revert to Class B. Currently, possession of two ounces or less of the drug is a Class A misdemeanor.

Senate Bill 170

This bill would change possession of less than an ounce of marijuana from a criminal felony to a civil one.

Senate Joint Resolutions

Senate Joint Resolution 17 would allow voters to determine whether marijuana should be made legal in Texas, following the lead of several other states. Senate Joint Resolution 18 would allow voters to choose whether to approve marijuana for medicinal purposes if prescribed by a health practitioner.

A Successful Marijuana Bill

In 2015, Lone Star State legislators proposed various unsuccessful bills to decriminalize the drug. However, in spite of the lawmakers' objections concerning decriminalizing the use of marijuana, Gov. Greg Abbot managed to endorse one bill into law. Senate Bill 339, the compassionate use act, authorized oils that contain cannabidiol (CBD), an element of marijuana identified to treat epilepsy and other persistent medical issues.

Bottom Line

Texas lawmakers have filed bills for next year's session that, if passed, would loosen the restrictions on using and possessing marijuana. However, unless decriminalization of the drug turns into reality, people who have been charged with marijuana possession should consider seeking advice from a lawyer with experience and knowledge of drug laws.

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