State Representative Joe Moody of El Paso introduced a bill to decriminalize the possession of small amounts of marijuana on the first day of the pre-filing period for the upcoming 2017 legislative session. The legislative proposal, HB 81, is just one of several attempts by Texas lawmakers to enact marijuana reform. Rep. Moody introduced similar legislation in the last legislative session, which drew the support of more than 40 co-sponsors, gained a powerful ally in the Texas Association of Business, and made it out of the Calendars Committee.
On average, there are 70,000 arrests in Texas each year for marijuana possession, costing the state around $734 million. Texas lawmakers pushing for reform hope to take advantage of growing public support for marijuana decriminalization, which is at 74 percent according to a poll taken in September. Some policy experts believe that the recent legalization successes on election day may create momentum for reform in Texas.
However, many legislators remain opposed to changing existing marijuana laws.
2017 Legislative Proposal for Marijuana Reform
Rep. Moody’s legislative proposal, House Bill 81, would remove criminal penalties for marijuana possession of one ounce or less. Instead, possession of this amount would be classified as a civil offense punishable by a fine of up to $250. Under existing law, the possession of 2 ounces or less of marijuana is a Class B misdemeanor, which is punishable by a fine up to $2,000 and 180 days in jail.
The other marijuana reform proposals include:
- House Bill 58 ¬– Create a specialty court to handle certain first-time marijuana possession offenders. Specialty courts are intended to be an alternative to traditional criminal justice intervention.
- House Bill 82 – Reduce criminal penalties associated with small amounts of marijuana possession. The proposed legislation would make possession of up to one ounce of marijuana a Class C misdemeanor instead of a Class B misdemeanor. However, anyone convicted three or more times of a marijuana possession offense within the specified time period can be charged with a Class B misdemeanor.
- Senate Bill 170 – Eliminate criminal penalties for marijuana possession of one ounce or less. The offense would be subject to a civil penalty of up to $250.
- Senate Joint Resolution 17 – Proposes a constitutional amendment to authorize and regulate the possession, cultivation, and sale of marijuana for recreational use. The measure would be submitted to Texas voters on the ballot in the November 6, 2018, election.
- Senate Joint Resolution 18 – Proposes a constitutional amendment to authorize and regulate the possession, cultivation, and sale of marijuana for medical use. The measure would be submitted to Texas voters on the ballot in the November 6, 2018, election.
Contact Experienced Houston Criminal Defense Attorney Ned Barnett
Until marijuana decriminalization laws pass in Texas, people will continue to be charged with possession. If you’re facing marijuana-related charges, contact the experienced Houston drug lawyer Ned Barnett right away. Being convicted of a drug offense means harsh criminal penalties and having a permanent criminal record.
Ned Barnett is certified as a criminal defense lawyer with the Texas Board of Legal Specialization and has nearly 30 years of practical legal experience. He has the skills and knowledge to defend against serious drug charges and will fight aggressively to secure the best possible outcome for your case.