Southern states are notorious for being more conservative and Texas is certainly no exception – but with a bit of luck marijuana decriminalization could be around the corner sometime this year. As of last week, there were a total of five different bills regarding marijuana possession laws filed in Austin that will be discussed by lawmakers during the upcoming legislative session.
Two of the bills aim for statewide decriminalization, taking possession of an ounce or less from a misdemeanor to a civil penalty, no different than a traffic ticket. The other bills merely aim to reduce the offense from a class B misdemeanor to a class C, which really isn’t much of an improvement.
On the bright side, the inauguration of District Attorney Kim Ogg could help to push things toward approval for those two bills aiming to decriminalize on a statewide level. While she would be unable to simply avoid all marijuana offenses, she does intend to try and keep those arrested out of jail.
“I’ve never felt good about putting marijuana users in the same jail cells as murderers. It’s just not fair, it doesn’t make any sense, and our country is resoundingly against that,” Ogg said briefly after her inauguration finished.
Currently, possession of two ounces of marijuana or less is a class B misdemeanor that results in a maximum sentence of 180 days in jail and/or a $2,000 fine. While in the past many would be sent to jail along with the fine, we might be seeing more people being offered a fine in place of jail time – even if it does result in an arrest record (which wouldn’t happen if either bill to decriminalize were to pass).
“I’m going to look at our legislature to take another look at the drug laws and the penalties that are imposed under Texas law. As long as it’s the law, I’ll follow it. But our office is going to use the discretion that the legislature gave us to handle marijuana cases differently,” Ogg said when asked about the charges against the local celebrities.
Unfortunately, until the law changes, it is still the law – so those who are caught with marijuana still run the risk of a criminal record and a fine at the very least, and jail time with a huge fine at the worst. However, if people are already being routed around jail, it would only make sense for lawmakers to move towards a policy that does exactly that, without the criminal record accompanying it.