Enforcing laws that make possession of small amounts of marijuana a criminal offense are costing taxpayers a lot of money, with little benefit in return. That’s the argument made by State Representative Jason Isaac (R-Dripping Springs). The bill he co-sponsored with Democrat Joe Moody of El Paso would reduce penalties for possession of less than an ounce of marijuana to a $250 civil fine.
On what House Bill 81 does:
“House Bill 81 is a decriminalization bill, not a legalization bill … for people that just make a mistake. They’re caught up in our justice system now, costing taxpayers millions of dollars every year; hurting economic development opportunities because typically when people are caught with small amounts, they’re prosecuted or charged. And that shows up on their record and people have a tough time getting jobs.”
On whether the Legislature is too conservative to pass the bill:
“Every single person that I talk to they’re saying ‘why are you supporting marijuana bills?’ and when I say let’s talk about this issue … they say that makes perfect sense … Thank you for better utilizing the tax dollars that have been entrusted to the government. So to me, this is a conservative issue.”
On how Harris County’s decision to de-emphasize marijuana possession prosecutions relates to House Bill 81:
“There are certain municipalities that have eased their efforts to … prosecute these low-level small amount possession crimes because they recognize that it’s just not the best use of law enforcement … Unfortunately now the law says they’re supposed to prosecute and charge people and arrest them. And it’s just not a good use of their time … It should be treated like a fine.”