The Texas House of Representatives gave preliminary approval last month to pass a law to decriminalize the possession of small amounts of marijuana, which would significantly change current legislation.
Right now, possessing even minimal amounts of marijuana for personal use could get a person in serious trouble with the law.
While possession of marijuana in all amounts would remain illegal, the bill aims to change how the government responds to these crimes and restructure the current drug classifications to lessen penalties for more minor offenses.
Changes in the law
For example, an individual possessing minimal amounts of marijuana (up to one ounce) would not be subject to arrest or jail time. Instead, the state would ticket and fine them.
Passing the law would also save the state hundreds of millions of dollars currently spent on the state’s law enforcement workforce and other resources for cases involving small amounts of marijuana. It will also allow the police to focus on more severe and dangerous drug cases.
Penalty reductions and expungements
For people already convicted of possessing small amounts of marijuana, the bill would also be significant. For those who have a conviction on record, the bill includes a provision allowing people to apply for expungement of these convictions.
Millions of Texans have criminal convictions for possessing minimal amounts of marijuana. Having a criminal record impacts people’s lives and, many would argue, in the case of marijuana, is disproportionate given the type of drug and the legislative changes adopted across the nation.
While possessing even small amounts of marijuana would remain illegal in Texas, if the state passes this law, it will lower the penalties and free up essential state resources that many people in the state legislature agree could be better used in other ways.