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Marijuana bill to de-criminalize possession of an ounce or less

A proposed bill has been submitted to the Texas legislature that would lessen the penalties for possessing a small amount of marijuana down to a fine of $250 and no jail term. Importantly, the bill is apparently being supported by law enforcement agencies in the state. Various current and former police officers testified in Austin in favor of the bill to reduce marijuana penalties and, in effect, decriminalize a small amount for personal use.

The new law, if passed, appears to bring about the technical decriminalization of possession of a small amount of the drug, despite imposing a monetary fine. Testimony indicated that the fine would not be a criminal record that would impede the person's future. The law would impose the fine for those caught with 1 ounce or less of the drug.

A representative of the Marijuana Policy Project, which is a pro-legalization organization, pointed out that the current prosecution of possession for a small amount goes on the person's record. It can then lead to impeding the person's access to work, education and housing. In Texas, a person's driver's license is suspended when the individual is in, near or around a vehicle where pot has been seized. It appears that problems like that would be eliminated, if the amount is an ounce or less.

It may be said that it is high time for reform of the marijuana laws in Texas. Importantly, the bill has bipartisan support. It may be passed before the end of the legislative session in May. Many who appeared made the point that law enforcement would be freed up to focus on more serious crimes that are of priority concern to society. The resources involved in the current process, including the time and monetary toll of prosecuting a marijuana possession case through the court system, are substantial.

Source: wbap.com, "Bill That Would Lessen Punishment for Marijuana Possession Gains Support", Feb. 16, 2017

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