Seeing the success of the marijuana law reform movement on election night is inspiring activists all over the country, even in a state like Texas. Reform has been attempted there before, but now there is a new sense of urgency among some to “strike while the iron is hot”, so to speak.
Several bills have been submitted for consideration in the Texas legislature next year, including one that would create a specialty court for certain first-time marijuana possession offenders, one that would reduce criminal penalties for possession of up to an ounce of marijuana and one that would re-classify convictions for possession of small amounts of marijuana.
The bill that would reduce penalties for an ounce of marijuana would replace the current punishment of $2,000 fine and 180 days in jail you can get for anything under two ounces, with a fine of $250 for possession of an ounce or less.
“We’re spending our tax dollars on incarcerating [people that don’t deserve to be incarcerated] because they got caught with a small amount of marijuana,” said State Representative Jason Isaac, a Republican who represents Dripping Springs, TX. “These are people that we probably subsidize their public education, we probably subsidize where they went to a state school, and now they’re branded as a criminal when they go to do a background check.”
Texas is a state that already has a “CBD-only” law in regards to medical marijuana, but activists are hoping to gain traction in that area as well. Decriminalization would obviously lead to not only less lives ruined, but also to a lot less taxpayer money being spent to push marijuana users through the criminal justice system.
“$10,000 per marijuana arrest to the taxpayer,” defense attorney Kyle Hoelscher told KIII-TV. “That has nothing to do with the actual person and their costs through probation or fines. That is from arrest through prosecution.”
Proponents for medical marijuana and decriminalization have a long uphill battle ahead of them in a state like Texas. Governor Greg Abbott said last year that legislators would not approve any bill that legalizes cannabis. When asked about that statement, a spokesperson for Abbott recently said there had been “no change.”
When making a list of states that are likely to legalize marijuana use for all adults in the next 5 years, you’re probably not going to include Texas. But that doesn’t mean that some progress cannot be made and it doesn’t mean that some people can’t be helped.