Texas House Revives Bill to Decriminalize Pot

     AUSTIN (CN) – A bill that would decriminalize the possession of small amounts of marijuana was surprisingly resurrected by a Texas House committee, triggering a two-week countdown for a full vote.
     The Texas House Criminal Jurisprudence Committee approved House Bill 507 in a 4-2 vote Monday evening. Authored by State Rep. Joe Moody, D-El Paso, the bill would end criminal charges and jail time for possession of one ounce of marijuana or less.
     Instead, violators would face a civil fine of up to $100. Moody said he was “very excited” with the “historic” vote that came with bipartisan support.
     “House Bill 507 will make a huge dent in the $734 million of taxpayer money we spend every year on arresting, jailing, and prosecuting people who haven’t done anything else wrong,” Moody said in a statement. “The bill will also keep law enforcement focused on more serious issues and young people from winding up with criminal records that can haunt them for the rest of their lives … No measure like this has ever been filed before in Texas, so having it reported favorably from committee was a huge step.”
     The American Civil Liberties Union of Texas applauded the committee’s approval, as well, calling it a “huge step towards ending the failed ‘war on drugs.'”
     “This is a huge first step toward ending Texas’ practice of targeting communities of color for low-level drug offenses,” ACLU Texas said in a statement. “Blacks and whites use marijuana at roughly equal rates, yet blacks are almost four times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession.”
     Possession between two and one ounces of marijuana would be a criminal Class B misdemeanor, a Class A misdemeanor between four and two ounces and a felony over four ounces under the bill.
     Support for H.B. 507 has come as a surprise in traditionally-conservative Texas. In January 2014, then-Texas Gov. Rick Perry rocked the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, by defending states that have decriminalized marijuana possession.
     Perry claimed his administration has begun to “implement policies that start us toward a decriminalization” through drug courts that provide treatment and lesser penalties for minor crimes.
     “Did we fight the war on drugs correctly every day? No,” Perry said at the time. “Has the war on terrorism been fought correctly every day? No. But the point is that after 40 years of the war on drugs, I can’t change what happened in the past.”

%d bloggers like this: