Several bills that will appear before the Texas legislature this session involve marijuana reform.
In the most recent election, three states voted to legalize recreational marijuana, and an additional four approved its medical use. According to Live Science, the majority of states in the country has legalized the medical use of marijuana either fully or in a limited capacity. Texas, relative to the rest of the country, seems to be behind.
The state currently has some of the strictest laws on the books regarding the substance. That could very well change in the near future, as state lawmakers have introduced legislation to decriminalize marijuana or, at least, approve it for medicinal purposes.
Presently, Texas takes a harsh stance on even possessing a small amount of marijuana. Under the law, having less than 2 ounces could land someone with a Class B misdemeanor, which is punishable by up to 180 days in jail as well as up to $2,000 in fines. The same classification is given to selling 0.25 ounces or less. Selling more than 0.25 ounces is considered a felony.
In 2015, the governor of Texas signed the Compassionate Use Act into law. This enables patients with epilepsy to obtain cannabis oil low in THC - the psychoactive component of the substance. However, the law is very limited in scope and keeps at bay many people who could benefit from medical marijuana.
These laws could get a drastic makeover, if several state lawmakers have any say. As NBCDFW reports, they pre-filed a number of bills for the new legislative session that intend to do the following:
- Put medical marijuana on the ballot for voters to decide
- Reduce possession of small amounts of marijuana from a misdemeanor to a civil infraction akin to a traffic ticket
- Establish a marijuana possession court, which would handle first-time possession offenders
While some people believe that Texas is too conservative to take such steps, there is proof that attitudes may be changing. According to NBCDFW, the new district attorney in Harris County stated that people who are arrested on charges of possession of small amounts of marijuana will not be put in jail.
The consequences of a drug conviction of any kind are serious. Felony charges result in jail time and a loss of some basic rights, like the inability to vote while incarcerated or on probation. Additionally, a criminal record could prevent someone from finding gainful employment.
As the landscape of marijuana reform continues to change, people in Texas should pay special attention to what the laws state. Anyone who has questions about this topic should speak with a criminal defense attorney.