Here’s a shocker: Texas lawmakers are fighting to decriminalize marijuana next year. Yes, Texas.
The American South — and Texas in particular — has always been a bit late to the party when it comes to marijuana legislation and enforcement. For years, the punishment for possession is harsher in Southern states than anywhere else in the nation.
And Texas is currently one of the most egregious for marijuana offenders. Possession of even a small amount (up to two ounces) is considered a misdemeanor that can land you behind bars for six months and a fine of $2,000.
But the tide is turning. And in 2017, all eyes will be on the Lone Star State.
Here’s A Look At The Various Plans That Have Been Filed:
- House Bill 58 by state Rep. James White, R-Woodville, will create a specialty court for certain first-time marijuana possession offenders based on the principle that first-time defendants are often self-correcting. The measure is intended to conserve law enforcement and corrections resources.
- State Rep. Joseph Moody, D-El Paso, filed House Bill 81, which aims to replace criminal penalties for possession of up to an ounce of marijuana with a civil fine of up to $250. The bill also allows Texans to avoid arrest and possible jail time for possessing a small amount of marijuana.
- State Rep. Harold Dutton Jr., D-Houston, filed House Bill 82, which aims to classify a conviction for possession of one ounce or less of marijuana as a Class C misdemeanor instead of Class B. However, if a person is convicted three times, it would revert back to a Class B misdemeanor.
- State Sen. José Rodríguez filed Senate Joint Resolution 17, which will allow voters to decide whether marijuana should be legalized in Texas, following the pattern of a number of states.
- Senate Joint Resolution 18, also authored by Rodríguez, will allow voters to decide whether to legalize marijuana for medical use if recommended by a healthcare provider.
- Rodríguez also filed Senate Bill 170, which will change possession of one ounce or less of marijuana from a criminal offense to a civil one.
Will More Red States Decriminalize Marijuana?
Texas is not the only southern state changing its tune. On Election Day, Arkansas and Florida both voted in favor of medical marijuana programs.
“This is a major tipping point,” said Tom Angell of Florida’s vote. “With Florida’s decision, a majority of states in the U.S. now have laws allowing patients to find relief with medical marijuana, and these protections and programs are no longer concentrated in certain regions of the country like the West and Northeast.”
With Texas and Florida, the two most influential states in the South getting on board the cannabis train, it appears likely that the entire region will soon catch up.
“Most states outside the South already have legal medical marijuana, but the overwhelming victory today in Florida is likely to accelerate the momentum for reform throughout the region,” said Ethan Nadelmann, executive director of the drug reform group Drug Policy Alliance.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has indicated that he is opposed to these measures, so the battle is far from over.
Highway is an essential source for cannabis science, how-to stories and demystifying marijuana. Want to read more? Thy these posts: One Man’s Journey In Pursuit Of The Truth Behind Marijuana Prohibition, Marijuana Myth Busting: Does Holding In Smoke Get You Higher? and A Drag Queen’s Visit To The Cannabis Store.