Texas is not the first place I think of when I think of tolerant marijuana policies – but they are coming around to a positive way of thinking concerning cannabis. This month, a bill was introduced into the Texas House of Representatives that would greatly reduce the marijuana possession penalties currently in place in the Lone Star State. The bill would reduce the fines and essentially prevent people in possession of small amounts of marijuana from serving jail time for minor infractions of Texas cannabis-regulating law.
Texas Marijuana Laws
Despite a recent slew of proposed bills for everything from cannabis regulation to decriminalizing possession the state, Texas cannabis laws are still archaic enough to carry heavy penalties for possession. Any amount less than two ounces may get you 180 days in jail and a hefty fine of $2,000. Hash oil possession is a felony that may carry two years in prison, although Texas drug diversion programs may allow first-time offenders to go to rehab instead. Selling any amount is a felony and can carry up to twenty years in jail. Cultivation of marijuana can result in life in prison and a $250,000 fine. Them are some harsh laws – it’s no wonder that there are so many pro-cannabis groups in Texas trying to decriminalize, legalize, and regulate marijuana. I applaud Texas for going after the most important aspects of cannabis persecution first: decriminalization and medical cannabis access for patients. To learn more about the pro-cannabis movement in Texas, check out Texas Cannabis Report and Texans for Responsible Marijuana Policy.
What is Texas House Bill 81?
Texas House Bill 81 was filed on November 16, and would decriminalize possession of less than one ounce of marijuana; a person possessing this much marijuana would only be subject to a $250 fine at most, and no jail time would be assigned. This type of decriminalization aims to reduce the number of people behind bars in Texas for minor drug infractions that are non-violent and threaten no one. As more studies reveal that marijuana is not a gateway drug to heroin addiction or the beginning of a life-long crime spree, putting someone behind bars for possession of a few joints is beginning to seem like punishment out of some dystopian futuristic novel. Texas has also proposed four other bills that seek to decriminalize and regulate marijuana consumption, cultivation, and possession in the great state of Texas. As Representative Joe Moody, one of HB 81’s supporters, noted, “State penal statutes regarding the possession of small amounts of marijuana are antiquated and costly…those convicted often suffer collateral, disproportionate consequences, such as the inability to find employment, or access certain benefits, like student financial aid or housing assistance.”
Texas’ Other Marijuana Bills
Texas currently has eight bills filed concerning marijuana law in the state, including HB 81. HB 58 would create a “specialty court” for first-time marijuana possession offenders, HB 82 would place small-time marijuana possession offenders in community supervision instead of jail, HB 436 concerns mandatory drug testing for people in the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families programs (TANF), SB 170 would prevent prosecution for drug paraphernalia associated with possession of small amount of marijuana, and SJR 17 would authorize and regulate possession, cultivation, and sale of cannabis. These bills were all either filed or refiled in November of this year, so Texas is certainly on the right track and taking future legalization very seriously. Keep it up, Texas! If this election showed us anything, it was that any state can legalize marijuana. Stay strong and support the legislators that support cannabis.