Texas and the decriminalization of marijuana

Texas may follow the route of the several states that legalized marijuana in the 2016 elections. In addition, the newly-elected Harris County district attorney announced plans to decriminalize marijuana after taking office. She explained that she did not want to incarcerate non-violent offenders, especially those who committed marijuana-related offenses. Texas state lawmakers have announced six bills related to regulating marijuana. Most of the bills focus on reducing punishments for individuals found with small quantities of marijuana in their possession.

House Bill 58 would create a specialty court for those who have been found with marijuana in their possession for the first time, freeing up law enforcement resources for other matters. House Bill 81 would impose civil fines rather than criminal penalties for those caught with less than an ounce of marijuana. House Bill 82 classifies the possession of less than an ounce of marijuana as a Class C rather than a Class B misdemeanor. Senate Joint Resolutions 17 and 18 allow voters to decide whether they wish to legalize recreational and medical marijuana respectively.

Senate Bill 170 would make the possession of a small amount of marijuana a civil rather than a criminal offense. These proposed changes are expected to create a different legal climate in Texas regarding the use of marijuana. One drug policy expert explained his belief that current penalties for marijuana use are not proportionate to the severity of the offense. It remains to be seen whether there will be bipartisan support for the proposed legislation.

As decriminalization is a long way away, people who have been issued this type of drug charge may benefit from consulting a criminal law attorney. As the consequences of a conviction could be severe, it may be advisable to have legal assistance when attempting to refute the allegations.