Bill introduced to decriminalize marijuana possession in Texas

Possessing less than an ounce of marijuana would be subject to a $100 fine

A Texas lawmaker has introduced a bill that would decriminalize possession of small amounts of marijuana in the state, according to the El Paso Times. The proposal would change minor marijuana possession from a misdemeanor to a civil penalty, meaning offenders would face only a fine and would not be burdened by jail time or a criminal record. While the bill has bipartisan and popular support, especially in light of decriminalization moves in other states, analysts say it faces a tough battle in order to become passed into law in Texas.

Civil penalty for possession

Under current Texas drug laws, which are some of the harshest in the country, anybody caught with less than two ounces of marijuana faces up to six months in jail in addition to $2,000 in fines. People convicted of possession also face a criminal record that can have serious consequences for years afterwards.

The proposed bill would lower those penalties considerably by reclassifying minor marijuana possession as a civil penalty rather than a misdemeanor. Instead of facing jail time or thousands of dollars in fines, the maximum punishment for possessing less than an ounce of marijuana would be a $100 fine.

Change makes sense

The lawmaker behind the proposal notes that 6.5 percent of all arrests in Texas are currently for marijuana possession, which ends up costing taxpayers $734 million annually, according to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. He also claims that current laws end up wasting police time since police currently have to book people into a jail when charging them with possession. Under the proposed bill, police could issue the fine and confiscate the marijuana within a matter of minutes.

Proponents of the bill also note that people would no longer face the prospect of a criminal record for possessing small amounts of marijuana. Such a criminal record can have serious consequences in terms of employment, immigration, and even college admissions. Despite having support from both parties, however, there are indications that the bill will have a difficult time getting passed, although proponents say attitudes are changing quickly and could work to the proposal's benefit. They cite, for example, a recent poll that found 60 percent of Texans support limiting the punishment for minor marijuana possession to a $100 fine.

Drug charges

Despite the fact that most Texans may support decriminalizing marijuana possession, the fact remains that the state continues to have some of the toughest marijuana laws still in place. Police and prosecutors continue to enforce these laws and people charged with marijuana possession face the very real threat of jail time and thousands of dollars in fines.

A criminal defense attorney should be contacted immediately following a drug crime charge. Such an attorney can vigorously defend clients against these damaging charges and fight to ensure his client's rights and interests are respected.