Even as many Texas citizens want marijuana to be legalized, lawmakers are slower on the draw. One state senator, however, is hoping to lessen penalties for those caught with weed. Joe Moody, a Democrat representing El Paso, is putting forth a bill to make possession of an ounce or less of cannabis punishable only by a small fine.
This would greatly reduce stiff penalties that can send those in possession of two ounces or less to jail and have them bucking up a $2,000 fine This offense is currently a class B misdemeanor, while Moody would like to see it become a civil citation just like a parking ticket. This would eliminate not only time behind bars, but there would be no arrest and nothing on one’s criminal record.
It would also avoid the downward spiral these drug offenses often send good people into. Not only does pot possession remain on your criminal record, drug possession in Texas also means a license suspension for six months. If you needed to drive either to or for work, not being able to could cost you your livelihood. Also, the stigma of the drug offense could cause you to not get the next job you apply for.
Lately it seems more likely that the bill could get through the House if Democrats could get Republicans on board, but the Senate will be a tougher nut to crack. The bill was introduced too late in the last session to get the headway it needed to get through.
As for Moody, luckily he is Chair of the Criminal Jurisprudence Committee, which decides which bills get air time. His bill was co-authored by two other Democrats who approve, and they need to get a Republican on board. Lawmakers say there is interest from their Democratic and Republican constituents. And a poll of Texas citizens reported that a healthy 59 percent of republicans and 60 percent of democrats approved of decriminalization. Another accounting had that number up to a whopping 79 percent of Democrats and 60 percent of Republicans who wanted it to be a civil rather than criminal matter.
Progress is being made in other parts of Texas. Houston and Harris County law enforcement won’t arrest those with under four ounces starting March 1. Those caught will have to take a drug education course, however. This policy is in line with those of twenty-one other states and Washington, D.C. These areas have decriminalized possessing a small amount of marijuana.
El Paso State Senator José Rodríguez will try to get the same measure to pass. He’s also trying to get a constitutional amendment through that would allow growing, selling, and possession of marijuana, although he is not hopeful due to the greater number of Republicans he’d have to convince. He does feel that proposing it—while doomed to fail—will force the legislators to at least talk about the issue.
Tillman Braniff, PLLC is a criminal defense team with substantial experience defending people charged with drug offenses. We feel that many Texans are too often harshly and unjustly penalized. We have years of experience finding holes in the prosecution’s case and getting our clients’ sentences reduced or dropped. We’d be happy to discuss what we can do for you with a free and confidential consultation, so call 512-236-0505 for Austin and 512-473-8745 for Wilco. You can also reach us through the form below.