Texas, which leads the nation in marijuana-related arrests, may be on the verge of decriminalizing marijuana possession. While that’s a small move compared to what’s happening in other parts of the country, it’s significant in a conservative “red state” where marijuana laws have remained at War on Drugs levels.
Nothing is a given, but marijuana legalization advocates are optimistic that Texas marijuana law could change this year. Jax Finkel, executive director for Texas NORML (the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws), told the Dallas Morning News that she remembers when “legislators laughed” at the possibility of changing Texas marijuana laws.
Arrests in Texas
This news may come as a surprise to people — both those living in and outside of Texas. The state has hardly budged on changing marijuana laws, even as the other biggest state in the country — California, New York, Florida — have made changes.
Most people are used to Texas making headlines on the other side of the marijuana debate. For example, Texas holds the distinction of leading the nation in marijuana-related arrested. According to numbers from the FBI as reported in Salon, law enforcement in the Lone Star State made 64,949 marijuana arrests in 2016 — that’s 12 percent of the arrests across the entire nation.
Penalties can include a 180-day jail sentence and a $2,000 fine, along with the lifelong stigma of a criminal record. After the Texas Legislature failed to vote on decriminalizing marijuana in 2017, judges in places such as Houston and San Antonio began offering defendants the chance to enter a pre-trial diversion program and avoid getting a criminal record.
But all this could possible change in 2019.
Both the state Republican Party and GOP Gov. Greg Abbott have endorsed changing Texas marijuana laws…Read More