Is Texas finally ready to decriminalize marijuana possession?

This article looks at what chance a recent marijuana decriminalization bill in Texas has of passing.

Marijuana laws are changing quickly across the country, with a handful of states either decriminalizing or legalizing recreational marijuana use entirely. As NBC 5 News reports, Texas could be the latest state to decriminalize possession of small amounts of marijuana if a recently introduced bill manages to become law. While proposals to decriminalize marijuana in Texas have been made before and failed, supporters of the bill say that now could finally be the time when enough support has been built up to make decriminalization a reality.

A proposed change to the law

If House Bill 81 becomes law then anyone in possession of less than an ounce of marijuana would face a fine of up to $250, much like a parking ticket. The offense would not result in arrest, jail time, or a criminal record, since the offense would no longer be considered criminal offense. Currently, Texas law says that anybody convicted of possessing up to two ounces of marijuana faces up to six months in jail and a $2,000 fine.

Support and opposition

However, efforts at decriminalizing marijuana are not new to Texas. Two years ago a similar measure was proposed, but that one never made it to the House floor for a vote. Critics of the bill say that this latest effort also has little chance of becoming law and insist that Texas is too socially conservative a state to be decriminalizing marijuana possession at this point in time.

However, supporters of decriminalization insist that such views are outdated. As CBS Austin reports, 83 percent of Texans support either decriminalizing or legalizing marijuana in some form. Those figures, the bill's supporters say, suggest that Texas is more than ready to join the dozens of other states that have decriminalized or legalized either recreational or medical marijuana.

In a sign of just how much things are changing, many law enforcement officials have also spoken out in favor of decriminalizing marijuana. They say that the time and resources it takes to make an arrest for marijuana could be better spent focusing on violent crimes instead. For example, in Harris County the district attorney announced earlier this year that first-time offenders in possession of small amounts of marijuana would no longer be sent to jail. Instead, they will face fines, drug education courses, and community service.

Drug offenses

Texas has some of the toughest drug laws in the country and offenders face the prospect of serious penalties if they are convicted. That's why anybody charged with a drug offense needs to contact a criminal defense attorney immediately. An experienced attorney can help defendants uphold their rights and fight to maintain their freedom when faced with these very serious charges.