From Texas Public Radio:
Advocates for marijuana reform breathed a sigh of relief as members of the Texas House advanced an effort that aims to lessen the criminal penalties for marijuana possession.
The bill by El Paso Democrat Joe Moody does a number of things to lessen the penalties for anyone caught with less than one ounce of marijuana. It reduces the charge from a Class B misdemeanor with potential jail time and a criminal record to a Class C misdemeanor with no jail time and probation.
“It is one that says, ‘no arrests,’ and if you haven’t done this or if you don’t have one of these in your history in [the] last calendar year you get automatic deferred adjudication, which is a short, short probation in low-level courts,” Moody said.
Moody says his bill is meant to reduce crowding within county jails for low-level drug offenses.
But not all House Republicans were fond of the bill. Montgomery County Rep. Cecil Bell said the measure is a slippery slope to full marijuana legalization in Texas.
“If you have money, you can afford to use all the marijuana you want to, pay your ticket go on and take your next ticket,” Bell said.
“I would say the criminal justice system as a whole benefits the wealthy and punishes the poor. This bill tries to fix that,” Moody responded.
House members approved the bill by a vote of 98 to 43.
Once it has a third and final vote, the bill heads to the Texas Senate, where the legislation isn’t viewed as a top priority by members of the Senate’s Republican Caucus.