The Texas House is scheduled to vote on a bill on Thursday that would make low-level marijuana possession punishable by a fine with no jail time.
The development comes one month after the House Criminal Jurisprudence Committee approved the decriminalization legislation in a 5-2 vote.
Under the bill, possession of one ounce or less of marijuana would be punishable by a $250 fine for the first two offenses, and it would be considered a class C misdemeanor for subsequent offenses, which is a lower penalty than is the case under current law.
Currently, possession of two ounces or less is a class B misdemeanor that carries a fine of up to $2,000 and up to 180 days in jail. That’s in addition to a permanent criminal record, which carries steep, long-term consequences.
“Regardless of political affiliation, Texans are in support of reducing penalties for low-level marijuana possession,” Heather Fazio, director of Texans for Responsible Marijuana Policy, told Marijuana Moment. “We want to see our valuable public safety resources used in a better way and we don’t want a simple marijuana charge to keep people from going to school or participating in the workforce.”
Despite the state’s reputation as a conservative stronghold, cannabis reform is advancing in several forms through the Texas legislature. That includes legislation to legalize and regulate industrial hemp and its derivatives, which was approved by the House on Tuesday.
It also includes a bill to expand the state’s medical marijuana program, which unanimously cleared by a House committee last week.
The Texas Republican Party endorsed all three modest reform measures last year, though it stopped short of backing broader adult-use legalization.
Advocates are optimistic that the decriminalization bill will make it all the way to the desk of Gov. Greg Abbott (R), who has expressed openness to signing legislation to reduce penalties for simple possession.
This story has been updated to note the House’s passage of a hemp bill.
Photo courtesy of Mike Latimer.