Legislation to reduce the penalty for low-level possession of marijuana in Texas was left pending Monday in a House committee.
House Bill 63 would make possession of less than an ounce of weed a civil penalty of up to $250. Only those caught three times would face misdemeanor charges.
“Right now we're arresting nearly 75,000 people in Texas for this low-grade offense,” says the bill's author, Rep. Joe Moody, D-El Paso. “There's essentially nothing we're getting for that except a three-quarter billion dollar price tag every year.”
“We've got young people that are having their license suspended, having a harder time getting financial aid or finding a place to live or getting a job,” he says. “Those repercussions for what is a minimal offense really just don't fit, so this is right-sizing the punishment for the violation.”
Rep. Moody says it's already working in Harris County and elsewhere in Texas.
“Prosecutors across the state are getting a hint that there's something to be fixed here,” he says. “Our bill would create a floor to make sure that everyone across the state would be doing at least something to free up these taxpayer resources.”
The Republican Party of Texas also supports making marijuana possession a civil offense.