The Texas House of Representatives Criminal Jurisprudence Committee passed a bill 5-1 to decriminalize small amounts of marijuana possession in Texas. The bill came as Rep. David Simpson (R-Longview) introduced the bill which proposed that Texas law enforcement not criminally punish people who possess a small amount of marijuana. The Texas Political Director for the Marijuana Policy project stated that the representatives most likely realize that arresting and charging people who possess small amounts of pot is a waste of law enforcement and state resources. As states have been working toward a possible legal plan for the use of marijuana, so far only Colorado, Alaska, Washington, and D.C. has built such plans. However, with this new bill passed in Texas, residents are celebrating a milestone, as they could be on their way to seeing a legalized plan for marijuana in the state.
The days of marijuana prohibition may now be over in Texas. As law enforcement arrested or cited more than 70,000 people in the year of 2012, according to sources, where most were just charged for simple possession. This fact is what proves that the law enforcement resources used to thwart the small possession of marijuana is not worth the time or money, especially as there are many other worse crimes going on that could cause damage. According to sources, marijuana is considered a practice that is better than the use of alcohol, especially as it does not affect consumers as badly.
A poll conducted in 2013 showed just how many residents in Texas support the legalization of marijuana. Public Policy Polling showed that 58 percent of people who took the survey were in support of full legalization of marijuana, while regulating the use of the substance like alcohol. If treated in the same way as alcohol, users would be able to purchase marijuana and smoke it privately, but not be allowed to go driving or parading in public while high. States who have legalized marijuana also allow users to keep a small amount on their person at any time and even some in their home, depending on which state.
The bill that was recently passed in Texas will only allow marijuana users to possess a small amount of pot without being criminally charged, if caught. Possessing less than an ounce of pot will still be a civil infraction, but will no longer be a high misdemeanor, according to sources. The bill’s sponsor Joe Moody (D-El Paso) said that it did not make sense to arrest possessors, take them to jail, and even give them a criminal record for such a small, non-violent offense.
At first the representatives were uneasy about passing the bill and were divided. The slow process caused many to believe that the bill would not pass through before the deadline. However, on Wednesday the committee passed the bill through, just in time. The possession of marijuana has now gone from a class B misdemeanor to a class C misdemeanor to a small civil infraction, as the decriminalization bills that have gone to the House of Representatives have slowly passed.
Though it is not legalization of marijuana, the decriminalization of it in Texas is a major milestone for the state who previously only upheld the prohibition of marijuana. Even as medical marijuana has had it’s battle with the state, residents have grown weary to the marijuana laws that have previously been in place. Residents are now a step closer to the full legalization of marijuana in the state, though that bill may be years away from passing, at the rate that Texas is going.
By Crystal Boulware
Brett Levin – Creativecommons Flickr License