Bipartisan Cannabis Decriminalization Bill Makes Headway in Texas Legislature
A bill that could seriously take the sting out of criminal penalties for cannabis possession is making headway in the Texas legislature. HB218 has bipartisan support and was recently, "approved by the House Criminal Jurisprudence Committee with a vote of 9-0" on March 7th, 2023, according to Forbes.
What would change if this bill passes?
Possession of up to 1 ounce of cannabis would not be an arrestable offense. It would be knocked down to a Class C misdemeanor subject to a fine of up to $500. I have many friends who could have avoided ever having a criminal record had this been in place when they were "busted". And that's the point: to stop ruining young people's full potential over something we all know is silly and petty at this point.
The bill requires courts to defer adjudication of the citation while a probationary period is served. If completed successfully, the charge can be expunged from the offender’s record.
Additionally, it would reduce 1 to 2-ounce offenses to a Class B misdemeanor and a 2 to 4-ounce possession to a Class A misdemeanor. It also would help some folks get an expungement for past offenses, which means so many people could get jobs and other opportunities they've been held back from.
Does it stand a chance?
Maybe. Ken Paxton and Greg Abbott have proven time and again that they are not very cannabis friendly. However, it feels that we are very close to a "something's gotta give" tipping point in which the will of the vast majority of people can hopefully persuade them to adopt a more progressive stance on this issue.
Is it enough?
Yes and no. I think it would be enough, for now, to significantly declog our criminal justice system, jails and courts. Countless people would have new opportunities without a criminal record. However, I personally believe strongly that the only ethical, sensible, and humane course of action is full legalization without caveat. However, if we can't leap into that feet-first, baby steps will get us there eventually.