Texas might decriminalize cannabis

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Texas might decriminalize cannabis

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Thor Benson / Cannabis News Box Contributor

Texas lawmakers are considering passing a bill that would decriminalize cannabis. Current law allows for a person to receive up to 180 days in jail and a $2,000 fine for possession of less than an ounce of cannabis. If the bill passes, that would change to a $250 fine only.

“We are very optimistic about the chances of HB 63 passing on the floor of the Texas House,” director of Texans for Responsible Marijuana Policy Heather Fazio told Marijuana Moment. “Overall, lawmakers on both sides of the aisle agree that we shouldn’t be wasting valuable criminal justice resources arresting and prosecuting people for small amounts of marijuana. Texas is ready.”

Jax Finkel, executive director of NORML’s Texas office, told Cannabis News Box that most Texans want to see cannabis laws change and it’s time to stop punishing people so harshly for simply possessing cannabis.

“84% of Texans want to see marijuana law changed in Texas,” Finkel said. “Only 16% support the current status quo. At hearings, we see an overwhelming amount of support and just a small group of opposition.”

Finkel said the executive associations for Police Chiefs and Sheriff are the only major groups that typically oppose cannabis law changing. He said the status quo is wasting money and unnecessarily throwing people into the criminal justice system.

“We have a high arrest rate [64,000+ with a 2/3 conviction rate] in Texas, with half of those being youth aged 17-24 yrs which then get saddled with harsh criminal consequences,” Finkel said. “We also waste $700 million in taxpayer monies on possession charges.”

Beyond decriminalization, Finkel said Texas is ready for full legalization. He said legalization would help get rid of the black market, it would make it so adults have access to safe, tested cannabis and it would generate a lot of revenue for the state.

“It would create an adult use framework where quality can be tested and consumers can be ID’d,” Finkel said. “Additionally, there would be great tax revenue for the state that could be directed at important needs for Texans.”

It’s unclear how long it will take Texas to decide to fully legalize cannabis, but this decriminalization bill looks like it has a good chance at passing. If it does pass, it might be a stepping stone that gets the state prepared to fully legalize cannabis and get rid of its thriving black market. Legalization would also help the state lessen its cartel issues, since cannabis regularly makes its way over the state’s border with Mexico.