Lawmakers in Texas are attempting to pass marijuana decriminalization legislation. The bill has bipartisan support. Instead of a trip to jail, possession of an ounce or less of marijuana could become a civil offense.
The Texas House Committee on Criminal Jurisprudence listened to testimony regarding House Bill 63, CBS DFW News reports. Decriminalization would result in the “offender” receiving a civil penalty. The penalty would be a fine up to $250.
Representative Joe Moody wrote the bill. He said, “Our current system is a disaster.”
According to Moody, about 75,000 Texans are arrested every year for marijuana possession. Many of those arrests found the offender in possession of one-third of an ounce.
Moody said, “It actually makes us less safe because that arrest takes an officer off the street for up to half a shift dealing with processing and paperwork, then further overcrowds our jails and clogs our courts. And it does absolutely nothing to deter marijuana use since usage has remained steady for years.”
Of course, there is opposition to this legislation. Texas has been a hard state to successfully change marijuana laws. Some still say that marijuana is a gateway drug.
The Grand Prairie Asst. Police Chief Ronnie Morris said, “What this bill would effectively cause is desensitizing citizens of this state to the dangers of the harmful, this harmful and dangerous drug, one step at a time, until full legalization is achieved.”
The Texas GOP made decriminalization a part of its party platform in 2018. Support for the legislation continues to grow, despite some lawmakers and law enforcement officials still living behind the times.