Stephen Carter 2019-04-24
A bill which would decrease the penalty for possession of an ounce or less of marijuana will be heard by the Texas House of Representatives. This marks the first time since 1974 that marijuana possession penalties in Texas could decrease.
HB 63, authored by Rep. Joe Moody (D-El Paso) would change the penalty from a Class B misdemeanor to a Class C misdemeanor, which effectively ends arrests for small amounts of marijuana. Instead, a fine would be issued, and any marijuana would be seized by law enforcement. If the bill stays in its current form, there would be no criminal record for the first two offenses. Additionally, Texans would no longer have their drivers license suspended for possession. Currently, a drug conviction would automatically cause a drivers license suspension, whether there was a vehicle involved or not.
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.
The bill passed out of committee on a 5-2 vote and currently has the official bipartisan support of 45 legislators as both authors and coauthors.
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