Texas Committee Approves Bill to Decriminalize low-level Marijuana Possession

A Texas legislative panel has approved a bill to decriminalize low-level marijuana possession, marking a significant milestone for cannabis reform in the state. The House Criminal Jurisprudence Committee voted unanimously to advance Rep. Joe Moody’s legislation, which would remove the risk of arrest or jail time for possessing small amounts of cannabis and allow people to eventually erase cannabis issues from their criminal records. The bill would make possession of up to one ounce of marijuana or cannabis concentrates a Class C misdemeanor, instead imposing a maximum fine of $500, removing the risk of jail time.

If passed, people with possession convictions for up to two ounces of marijuana could seek to have those convictions expunged through a court process for a $30 fee. The bill also specifies that possession of up to two ounces of cannabis would not result in an arrest, meaning violators would be cited and released. The full House of Representatives has already passed similar cannabis decriminalization proposals during the past two legislative sessions, in 2021 and 2019.

Despite the widespread support for decriminalization among Texas voters, similar proposals have consistently stalled in the Senate amid opposition from Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick. According to a University of Texas/Texas Politics Project poll in December, 72% of Texas voters support decriminalizing marijuana, and 55% are in favor of broader legalization. Advocates are also keeping their eyes on local initiatives, where activists have succeeded in enacting municipal cannabis reform policies. Most recently, voters in five cities passed marijuana decriminalization ballot measures in November, and voters in San Antonio are set to decide on a similar cannabis initiative in May.

Overall, the progress of this bill is a significant step forward for cannabis reform in Texas, and could have a positive impact on the lives of many Texans who have been impacted by the state’s harsh drug laws. As the bill heads to the House Calendars Committee to be scheduled for floor action, advocates will continue to push for broader cannabis reform in the state, including legalization for medical and adult-use purposes. (Source)

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