2013 Texas Legislative Update: Marijuana Decriminalization – Unlikely to Ever Pass, but Good for Decreasing Juvenile Arrests


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Two Texas lawmakers are hoping Texas legislators will pass a bill to reduce the penalty for possession of less than two ounces of marijuana to a Class C misdemeanor.  This means offenders in this category would pay a ticket, like a traffic ticket not punishable by jail time.  Rep. Dutton (D-Houston) and Rep. Burnam (D-Fort Worth) are co-sponsoring House Bill 184.  A similar bill authored only by Dutton, HB 182, would lower the penalty for possession less than a gram of a controlled substance (cocaine or heroin, for example) from a state jail felony to a Class A misdemeanor, still punishable by jail time.

California has experimented with decriminalization and seen positive results.  In 2010, California passed SB 1449, a bill similar to HB 184, to reduce possession of less than one ounce of marijuana from a misdemeanor to a ticket, with no jail time and a maximum of $100 fine.  An interesting, presumably unintended consequence of the decriminalization of marijuana in California is the significant decrease in juvenile arrests.  Between 2010 and 2011, juvenile crime in California decreased by 20%, resulting in the lowest level of juvenile crime since 1954, when California started keeping these records.  In addition, drug arrests decreased by nearly 50 percent.  Presumably juvenile crime in Texas would also decrease and drug arrests would decline significantly as Class C misdemeanors are only ticketable, not arrestable offenses.  I believe this would be wonderful for Texas youth.  Many teens make poor choices involving drugs and get over it. Under this law, they could learn their mistake with only a court appearance and a fine.

Would marijuana decriminalization be a good move financially for Texas? Probably, some believe that Texas counties would safe large sums of money from less indigent defense costs and warehousing fewer low-level drug offenders.  Despite this, most sources believe HB 184 has no chance of passing.  Some believe small time, conscientious marijuana users don’t deserve to be jailed.  Supporters of the bill including Texas NORML (National Organization for the Reformation of Marijuana Laws).  Opponents have not spoken up loudly against this bill as it is not expected to get anywhere, but presumably would include governments and organizations with similar philosophies to the federal Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA).

When voters in Washington and Colorado legalized marijuana in their states in November 2012, they did so in part to benefit their states financially by taxing marijuana.  Texas is a likely long way from legalizing marijuana to tax it, but if they did so, I predict the savings and potential tax income would likely be a lifesaver for the state.

Will Texas ever decriminalize marijuana? My money is on no.

Read 3 comments

  1. I don’t know why people think this will never pass in Texas. Look at Austin. It’s decriminalized there already. Lowest priority, and I have known many people who have been caught with cannabis and not arrested, sometimes cannabis is confiscated, other times they outright ignore it, or give a citation (which is actually now optional under Texas state law, at the discretion of each county).

    This is getting to the tipping point boys. So many bills are live right now. There is a bill in 11 states for medical marijuana, and at least 8 are expected to actually have a shot at passing. There are 6 bills to decriminalize, 2 to legalize, including a federal bill as well.

    Texas may be stuck in it’s ways, but it LOVES money. Loves it. Granted, there are still “dry” counties held over from prohibition times, and you will likely see areas in Texas that ban the sale, but that’s par for the course – counties have a lot of individual freedom in Texas – they are like little mini-states. It will be decriminalized, or legalized, it will only be a matter of time…… This bill has yet to have opposition – THAT is rare.

  2. Yeah that law you are talking about directly affected me, I was issued a citation from a Texas Game Warden for .5 ounces marijuana, and at the bottom of the ticket where it shows what judge to appear before and when to appear, was a big “X” and it was crossed out. He told me to keep in touch with Orange,TX Courthouse, and I did, until about a month later when i went to see a lawyer about all this and he informed me i had a Warrant for my Arrest. Ended up having to turn myself in and bail myself right back out,($287, bail was set at $1000, but 10% didn’t meet the bail bondsmans minimum, so i had to pay the $287) lost 1 day of work so far, I work 40 miles from home. I went to court ended up recieving $200 Fine, $365 Court Costs, 9 months probabation, 90 Hours Community Service, Drug Rehab Classes, and Drug Screens and since I work in LA, I have to get a Travel Pass Renewed every 30 Days. 1st offense for ANYTHING EVER!! Here having personal amt of pot is worse than DRIVING DRUNK…….Somehow I’ll find a way to still care care of my family, somehow

  3. I agree that decriminalizing MJ would be beneficial for our youth, and the current MJ bills in TX won’t pass, but I do believe decrimnalization not far-fetched. Remember, the 2007 TX Legislature already made a move toward decriminalization with passing a law which gives TX counties the option to issue citations instead of automatically arresting those caught with MJ (though it remains a B misdmeanor). And the TX Democratic Party has officially supported MJ decriminalzaitonl. The TX Libetarian party has officially supported legalization. Its only a matter of time until tide turns in rationality’s favor.

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