AUSTIN, TX — A bill to reduce penalties for low-level marijuana possession in Texas has passed out of the Criminal Jurisprudence Committee with a bipartisan vote of 5-2.
If House Bill 63 passes the House and Senate, Texans would no longer face jail time or the collateral consequences that come along with a criminal drug conviction. The policy proposed by this bill, which is sponsored by Rep. Joe Moody (D-El Paso), is in line with the Republican and Democratic Platforms as well as numerous other states.
Such a change will save taxpayers money and allow police and the courts to re-prioritize their resources toward addressing more serious crimes.
Minor marijuana possession offenders, many of them young people, should not be saddled with a criminal record and the lifelong penalties and stigma associated with it.
The next step for the bill will for it to be referred to the Calendars Committee, which Rep. Moody sits on as Vice-Chair.
The bill was amended by the committee and now allows an individual to receive two civil penalties ($250 fine) before facing Class C Misdemeanor charges for subsequent offenses.
Even after three or more charges, though, Rep. Moody’s bill institutes an automatic deferral, allowing the individual to avoid a permanent criminal record.
This is a vast improvement from current law, which penalizes even small amounts with an arrest, up to 180 days in jail, up to $2,000 in fines, and a permanent criminal record.