Texas Representative Joe Moody introduced a bill yesterday morning calling for the decriminalization of “marihuana” possession. The proposed bill would also create “an exception to prosecution for possession of associated drug paraphernalia.”
Under HB 334, possession of over one ounce of marijuana would still be punishable with a misdemeanor, while five pounds or more would still garner a felony charge.
Should the bill pass, police would cite the person caught in Texas with under one ounce of cannabis with a civil penalty of up to $250. It is important to note that these civil penalties for marijuana possession cannot be considered a “conviction” on someone’s criminal record.
The court can waive the civil penalty in favor of issuing up to ten hours of community service or admittance into a substance abuse education program at the judge’s discretion.
If someone is issued three separate civil offenses for marijuana possession, the fourth instance would make the accused eligible for a Class C misdemeanor charge rather than a fine.
Rep. Joe Moody (D-El Paso) has a long history of attempting to usher in marijuana reform in Texas, having submitted a similar decriminalization bill earlier this year as well as a bill aiming to regulate industrial hemp licenses.
While his state tends to be on the tail end of progress when it comes to ending the War on Drugs, Joe Moody offers a bastion of hope for the future of reform in the Lonestar State. In an article Moody penned for the El Paso Times earlier this year, he said the following about decriminalization:
…it’s a better way to deal with this issue. Right now, Texas is spending $734 million every year on enforcement, not to mention the time and attention of police, prosecutors, and courts that could all be better spent dealing with other issues.
On top of that, the current punishment doesn’t fit the crime. Arrestees — mostly young people — are being saddled with permanent criminal records that can make them almost unemployable later.
They also face driver’s license suspensions, housing and student financial aid denials, and immigration consequences over this pettiest of petty “crimes.”
Photo courtesy of Allie Beckett