The Texas House of Representatives has approved a bill to decriminalize cannabis in the state. If passed, possession of a maximum of one ounce of cannabis will be a Class C misdemeanor, removing the risk of imprisonment and imposing a maximum fine of $500 instead. Additionally, people who have been convicted of possessing less than two ounces of cannabis could have those convictions expunged.
Texas House of Representatives Approves Cannabis Decriminalization Plan
Will Texas, one of the most conservative states in the US, join the American states where cannabis is decriminalized? Following the latest developments in the Texas House of Representatives, that’s looking increasingly likely.
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Proposal to Decriminalize Cannabis in Texas
The Texas House of Representatives, equivalent to the National Assembly, has given initial approval to a bill to decriminalize cannabis in the state. Earlier on Wednesday, a committee heard testimony on a separate bill to legalize and more broadly regulate cannabis sales.
The House passed Democrat Representative Joe Moody’s bill on second reading in a voice vote, preparing it for final adoption in the House.
“I am very proud to present to you a bill that will reduce taxes, improve economic opportunities for Texans, and strengthen law enforcement’s ability to respond to serious crimes,” said Moody. “House Bill 218 changes the way we enforce laws related to personal cannabis possession.”
Cannabis Possession Remains Illegal in Texas
“Personal cannabis possession remains illegal in Texas, but we are approaching it in a smarter way than we are today,” he added. “This will free up hundreds of millions of dollars that are currently dedicated to law enforcement, keep police on the streets working on more serious cases instead of dealing with these minor arrests, and ensure that those who would currently end up with a criminal record that interferes with employment, schooling, housing, and licensing are removed from the process without permanent stigma.”
Details of the Proposed Bill
The bill proposes making the possession of a maximum of one ounce of cannabis (28 grams) a Class C misdemeanor in Texas, removing the risk of imprisonment and imposing a maximum fine of $500 instead. Current law in Texas classifies possession of small amounts of cannabis as a Class B misdemeanor, punishable by up to 180 days in jail and a fine of up to $2,000.
The Texas bill also specifies that possession of less than two ounces of cannabis does not result in arrest, meaning offenders are cited and released. Additionally, people who have been convicted of possessing less than two ounces of cannabis could have those convictions expunged through a judicial procedure for a $30 fee.
This Texas House of Representatives vote comes about a month after a House committee unanimously adopted the measure, which would remove the risk of arrest or imprisonment for low-level cannabis possession and allow people to eventually expunge cannabis-related misdemeanors from their criminal records.
Potential Political Roadblocks in Texas
The Texas House of Representatives has already passed similar proposals to decriminalize cannabis in the past two legislative sessions, in 2021 and 2019. So far, the proposals have always been blocked in the Senate due to the opposition of Republican Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick.
It is not yet known whether Dan Patrick will seek to block the Texas cannabis law reform again.
(Featured image by Second-Half Travels (CC BY-NC 2.0) via Flickr)
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