Bills to lessen marijuana penalties introduced in Texas legislature

Updated: Nov. 16, 2016 at 10:52 AM CST
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AUSTIN, TX (KCBD) - A bill introduced in the Texas House of Representatives aims to reduce penalties for possessing small levels of marijuana to a ticketable offense.

Rep. Joe Moody of El Paso introduced the bill, HB 81, today in a House session. A companion bill, SB 170, was introduced in the Texas Senate by Sen. Jose Rodriguez, also of El Paso.

Currently, possession of any amount of marijuana up to two ounces is a Class A misdemeanor and carries a penalty of up to $2,000 and 180 days in jail. The newly introduced bill and its companion bill would make such possessions non-criminal offenses punishable by $250 fines.

The bill is about the efficient allocation of state resources, according to Rep. Moody. "Arrests and criminal prosecutions of low-level marijuana cases distract law enforcement and prosecutors, leaving fewer resources for violent crime."

Sen. Rodriguez also criticized current policies, noting that in addition to being "antiquated and costly," such policies frequently inflict "collateral, disproportionate consequences" on those convicted, such as restricted access to employment and benefits like housing assistance or student financial aid.

Heather Fazio, spokesperson for Texans for Responsible Marijuana Policy, expressed admiration for Rep. Moody's efforts and echoed the sentiments of both lawmakers: "Imposing a civil penalty instead of criminal penalties makes good sense as it frees up resources that could be used in ways that better serve our communities."

Added Fazio, "No one deserves to have their lives derailed due to a criminal conviction for possessing a substance that is safer than alcohol."

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