May 3, 2017 | by Staff
2016 was a watershed year for weed in the US, with California, Maine, Nevada and Massachusetts approving recreational marijuana, while Montana, Arkansas, North Dakota and Florida approving medical marijuana measures.
However, southern states are particularly conservative and Texas is no exception to that since people are arrested for possessing even tiny amounts of marijuana. Marijuana penalties in the state include fines, incarceration, and treatment for cannabis addiction. If convicted, adults may even face prison or jail sentences, while minors are sent to a juvenile facility. No bills to legalize marijuana had been proposed in Texas in any form since 2008.
Of late, however, things are looking brighter with the Texas Legislature enacting The Texas Compassionate Use Act (Senate Bill 339) in June 2015, allowing for the use of cannabis oil high in CBD, also known as cannabidiol among intransigent epileptics who’ve had the drug prescribed by their physician. The state is speedily making decriminalization a top priority on its 2017 lawmaking agenda. State Rep. Jason Isaac, R-Dripping Springs, told the American statesman that many Texans have lost their jobs because of penalties for minor drug offenses. Isaac was supposed to support decriminalization bills in the legislative elections starting in January to ensure that more Texans get jobs and not be guilt-ridden all through their lives. He said that Texans without jobs ultimately have to depend on state resources, eventually making them more dependent on the government.
State Rep. Joe Moody, D-El Paso, another proponent of the legalization of marijuana, said that convicting people of minor drug offenses could “derail them” and create an “unemployable class of young people, ”leading to a negative impact on the economy.”
Cathy DeWitt, vice president of The Texas Association of Business, said that minor convictions could turn out to be barriers to employment.” Decriminalizing the possession of cannabis will increase the likelihood of people getting jobs.
Five different bills related to marijuana possession laws in Austin are to be discussed in the upcoming legislative session. Out of these, two aim for a statewide legalization, where possessing an ounce or less of the drug can result in a civil penalty-something similar to a traffic ticket. The remaining three bills aim to alleviate the charges from a class B violation to a class C.
Looking at the bright side, the inauguration of District Attorney Kim Ogg could possibly speed up the approval process for the first two bills that aim to decriminalize on a statewide level. Following the inauguration, Ogg voiced her anguish on putting marijuana law offenders in the same cells as other serious convicts like murderers. She said that she’d be looking at the state’s legislature on drug laws and penalties but will use the discretion to handle marijuana cases in a different way.
Marijuana was decriminalized in Harris County by Ogg on March 1, 2017, affecting over 4.5 million Texans. Because of this, a person carrying less than 4 ounces of cannabis is fined by up to $150 and is not labeled a criminal. The expenses rendered on implementing marijuana laws in Harris County before decriminalization was estimated at $26,663,800 per year, according to information provided by the Harris County District Attorney’s office. These expenses cover court fees, DA fees, indigent defense, crime labs, jail costs and labor costs.
If used properly, this money can be used to build a high school or a 17-bedded hospital in Houston every year. Furthermore, prosecutors and cops would be able to use their freed-up time in handling many unsolved crimes including rape.
Unfortunately, until new reforms come into place, the laws have to be followed. So, people who infringe on marijuana laws in Texas will still be fined, imprisoned or run the risk of being convicted as a criminal depending on the amount of cannabis possessed.
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