A partial decriminalization measure cleared an important procedural hurdle, but there are still roadblocks ahead.
The House Criminal Jurisprudence Committee approved H.B. 63 by a 5-2 vote. The next stop is probably the House floor, where the measure enjoys bipartisan support. Under this proposal, possession of less than one ounce would be a maximum $250 fine. The third such offense would be a Class C misdemeanor. During the 2018 gubernatorial campaign, Republican Gov. Greg Abbott endorsed such a measure. During a debate, he said he did not want to see “jails stockpiled with people who have possession of small amounts of marijuana.”
At almost the same time, two major Texas law enforcement groups urged the Legislature to stop marijuana reform. Partial decriminalization is a “slippery slope” to full legalization, opined Grand Prairie Police Chief Scott Dye. “This is a calculated and systematic approach by a minority of our population who use marijuana and/or stand to gain from marijuana production,” he added.
Understanding the Marijuana Policy Debate
Like cocaine, LSD, and other illegal narcotics, marijuana is a mind-altering drug. That’s probably why it is illegal. Tobacco, alcohol, and other similar substances may be almost as dangerous. But they are mood-altering chemicals. There is a big difference.
Law enforcement groups also have something to gain if marijuana criminal laws remain unchanged. Marijuana possession is a serious Class B misdemeanor (maximum six months in jail and/or a $1000 fine), even if the defendant only had one joint. That harsh law keeps lots of officers on the street and provides work for lots of probation officers.
Legalization proponents point out that marijuana is safer than the prescription painkillers on the market. Painkiller overdoses have killed tens of thousands of people, and marijuana overdoses have never killed anyone. Furthermore, marijuana has at least some medical benefits.
And, Chief Dye was partially right. Many people in other states. make lots of money selling marijuana and marijuana paraphernalia.
Chief Dye was also partially wrong. In a 2018 poll, 53 percent of Texas said they favored either outright legalization or partial decriminalization.
Dealing with Your Marijuana Case
Hearing both sides of the story helps us form opinions, but it does not help a Weatherford drug crimes attorney deal with your marijuana case.
Misdemeanor possession accounts for most of the 66,000 marijuana arrests in Texas (49 percent of all drug arrests). Pretrial diversion is usually available in these cases. Even if the defendant does not have a valid defense, prosecutors often dismiss these cases if the defendant pays some money and completes some program requirements, like community service.
Pretrial diversion is usually available, but Parker County prosecutors typically only offer it if the defendant asks. If the defendant has a defense, like lack of evidence, they are even more likely to make the offer.
Defense attorneys often successfully resolve complex marijuana cases. For a free consultation with an experienced criminal defense attorney in Weatherford, contact Herreth Law. Home and jail visits are available.