Texas House committee hears bills aiming to reduce marijuana penalties


AUSTIN (KXAN) — On Monday, a Texas House committee will hear five bills that aim to reduce the penalities of marijuana possession, including re-classifying the crime as a Class C misdemeanor.

Over a dozen bills have been introduced during the 86th Texas Legislative Session to reduce penalities for low-level marijuana possession. House Bill 63, introduced by U.S. Rep. Joe Moody (D-El Paso), has already passed through the Texas House Criminal Jurisprudence Committee and currently awaits scheduling for a House floor debate and vote. 

Thirty-five legislators have signed on in support of the bill.

State law currently classifies possession of two ounces or less of marijuana as a Class B misdemeanor and carries up to a $2,000 fine, 180 days in jail and the charges are placed on permanent records.

Heather Fazio, director of Texans for Responsible Marijuana Policy says criminal records for possession of small amounts of marijuana limit young people’s lives forever. 

“A criminal record for even a small amount of marijuana follows a person for life, hindering their access to education, employment and housing. This is especially important considering that high school and college age Texans make up the majority of arrests every year. We’re saddling our young people with criminal records and causing more harm to their lives than marijuana itself ever could.”

None of the bills being heard will keep people from being arrested, but the penalities would cap the fine at $500 with no jail time. 

A Texas Tribune poll released in 2018 found that 69 percent of Texans support reduced penalities for possession of small amounts of marijuana. Gov. Greg Abott spoke of the need for reform during his re-election campaign last year.

Abbott said: 

“One thing I don’t want to see is jails stockpiled with people who have possession of small amounts of marijuana. What I would be open to talking to the legislature about would be reducing the penalty for possession of two ounces or less from a Class B misdemeanor to a Class C misdemeanor.”

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