“A legislator in Texas has introduced a bill which would reduce penalties for the possession of marijuana.
House Bill 548 [PDF], introduced by Rep. Harold Dutton Jr (D-Houston), would reclassify possession of less than an ounce of marijuana from a Class B misdemeanor to a Class C misdemeanor with a maximum penalty of a $500 fine, reports My Fox Austin.
Possession of two ounces or less, but more than one ounce would remain a Class B misdemeanor.
Currently, possession of up to two ounces of marijuana is a Class B misdemeanor in Texas, with a maximum penalty of six months in jail and/or a $2,000 fine.
Photo: Houston Chronicle
Rep. Harold Dutton Jr. introduced HB 548, which would reduce marijuana possession penalties in Texas
Class A misdemeanors would be issued to those in possession of four ounces or less, but more than two ounces, and possession of five pounds or less but more than four ounces would be a state jail felony.
Possession of more than five pounds, but less than 50 pounds would be a third degree felony, and possession of more than 50 pounds, but less than 2,000 pounds would be a second degree felony.
Marijuana possession cases of more than 2,000 pounds would be punishable by life imprisonment, or for a term of not more than 99 years or less than five years, and a fine not to exceed $50,000.
Back in 2007, the Texas Legislature passed a bill that changed marijuana possession from an automatic Class B misdemeanor. Officers can now choose between giving a Class B or Class C misdemeanor, depending on the case.[Editor’s Note:The bill that was passed in 2007, HB 2391, does not give officers the option of lowering the charge. It only gives them the option to not arrest, and book into jail, the person on the spot, as long as that person resides in the county where the stop took place. The citation given to the person would have a court date, and upon appearing in court, the person would face either a Class B Misdemeanor (2 ounces or less) or a Class A Misdemeanor (2-4 ounces). The penalties for those charges are not affected at all by HB 2391.]
Paul Armentano of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) said that more supporters have sent emails to their House members regarding HB 548 than any other marijuana bill in any other state, according to NORML of Waco.
“To date, just shy of 1,300 emails have been sent in support of HB 548 — so every member of that Committee Tuesday should be well educated that this bill is out there and that there is public support for it,” Armentano said.
The bill is a step in the right direction, albeit a small one, according to Cheyanne Weldon, secretary of Texas NORML.
“I think it’s a very small baby step, but it’s definitely something that we need, and I’m not going to turn away from it,” Weldon told Toke of the Town Wednesday afternoon.
“Regardless of how you feel about marijuana, look at where we’re spending our resources,” Weldon told us.
“We have people in Texas who can cut a deal, even though they’ve killed someone, and they get off on probation,” Weldon said. “Meanwhile, how many people are being arrested for pot possession? It’s ridiculous!”
Not a single person testified against the bill in a public hearing on Tuesday, according to Weldon. About a dozen advocates testified in favor of the bill, and bill sponsor Rep. Dutton even admitted youthful marijuana use.
If you’re a Texas resident, voice your support for the bill by clicking here to contact your Representative.”