As US residents in greater numbers support marijuana legalization, politicians are supporting the change in marijuana possession charges and related sentencing.
Rep. Joe Moody, Democrat El Paso, has introduced his first bill for the 86th filing session. This bill would reform laws for the state of Texas, making marijuana possession of one ounce or less a civil offence and not a criminal one.
The penalty for possession of these small amounts of marijuana would be a fine rather than a jail sentence. This is a move that could be received favourably by legislators because of the high levels of legalization support among constituents across the US.
Gov. Greg Abbott, a Republican, showed support for the idea of marijuana decriminalization during his re-election campaigning. Gov. Abbott noted he would rather jails not be overfull because people caught with small amounts of marijuana are serving long sentences.
The Texas Republican Party is also seemingly on board for changes like Moody’s proposal. In June, the party released a statement sharing the opinion that sentences for small amounts of marijuana would be better suited to a fine of up to $100 and not include jail sentences of any length.
For Rep. Moody, this is not his first effort to make legislation happen to reduce a marijuana possession charge from criminal to civil for small amounts. Rep. Moody fought for a similar bill he introduced during 2017, finally admitting defeat when no one seemed willing to support the bill to success during the fall special session.
Moody’s bill in 2017 was House Bill 334, which would have adjusted possession of a small amount of marijuana to a civil citation and carried a sentence of a $250 fine. His proposal included conditions that allowed part of the fine to be paid by an individual participating in drug education. Meanwhile, a third offence would require the education as part of the consequences, and a fourth offence would have been a Class C misdemeanour, rather than a civil citation.
The bill in 2017 did better than previous marijuana-focused legislation. However, it fell far short of being signed into law during that session of the state House.