Texas is one step closer to eradicating the criminal penalties associated with minor marijuana possession. The House Criminal Jurisprudence Committee recently put its seal of approval on a proposal (House Bill 81) that would allow police all over the state to simply slap those people caught in possession of up to an ounce of weed with a small fine instead of dragging them to jail. The state currently deems this offense a Class B misdemeanor, which carries the potential for marijuana offenders to serve up to six months behind bars.

To ensure the proposal made its way through the first phase of the legislative process, Representative Joe Moody, who also Chairs the committee, was forced to amend the language in a manner that allows judges the right to hit habitual pot offenders with a Class C misdemeanor. Moody stated, “If you’re going to be a frequent customer, you will be moved into the criminal arena.” The proposal is now set to go before the Calendars Committee, which has the power to decide if the measure will get a fair shot in front of the full House.

The bad news is that one of the “No” votes came from Republican Todd Hunter, who just so happens to oversee the Calendars Committee. Therefore, it is distinctly possible that his prejudice toward the bill could stop it from being heard on the House floor altogether. However, marijuana advocates hope that Hunter will leave his personal opinions out of this debate and do the right thing.

Heather Fazio, a spokesperson for Texans for Responsible Marijuana Policy stated, “The state’s current policy of arresting and jailing people for simple marijuana possession is completely unwarranted. Law enforcement officials’ time and limited resources would be better spent addressing serious crimes. No one should be saddled with a lifelong criminal record simply for possessing a substance that is less harmful than alcohol.”

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