Stephen Carter 2019-03-25
Austin, Texas – State lawmakers have advanced a bill out of committee which would reduce the penalty for possession of an ounce or less of marijuana, eliminating the threat of jail time and allowing individuals to avoid a criminal record.
After a spirited hearing earlier this month for HB 63, filed by State Rep. Joe Moody (D-El Paso), the Criminal Jurisprudence Committee voted 5-2 in favor of the bill today. The legislation now heads to the Calendars Committee, which decides when bills will be scheduled for debate on the floor of the Texas House of Representatives.
State law currently classifies possession of two ounces or less of marijuana as a Class B misdemeanor which carries up to a $2,000 fine, 180 days in jail, and a permanent criminal record which hinders access to educational and employment opportunities. HB 63 would institute a $250 fine for the first two offenses, with each subsequent offense being charged as a Class C misdemeanor.
Reducing the penalty for marijuana possession has gained support from both Gov. Greg Abbott, who stated he was open to changes to the law during his re-election bid last year, and as an official plank in the Republican Party of Texas platform.
“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,” Abbott stated.
Delegates to the 2018 Republican state convention voted in favor of a position which reads “We support a change in the law to make it a civil, and not a criminal, offense for legal adults only to possess one