Texas House Will Vote On Marijuana Decriminalization And Expungements Bill Next Week

April 21, 2023 · marijuanamoment.net

The Texas House of Representatives will vote on a bill to decriminalize marijuana possession and create a process for expunging cannabis conviction records next week.

About a month and a half after the House Criminal Jurisprudence Committee unanimously passed the legislation, the Calendars Committee has officially scheduled it for floor consideration on Wednesday, April 26.

The measure from Rep. Joe Moody (D) would remove the risk of arrest or jail time for low-level possession of cannabis and allow people to eventually erase cannabis issues from their criminal records.

The House has already passed similar cannabis decriminalization proposals during the past two legislative sessions, in 2021 and 2019. But so far the proposals have consistently stalled in the Senate amid opposition from Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick (R), who presides over the chamber.

HB 218, the bill heading to the floor, combines two separate measures from the most recent session, both of which passed on the full House.

It would make possession of up to one ounce of marijuana a Class C misdemeanor, removing the risk of jail time and instead imposing a maximum fine of $500. Existing law classifies possession of small amounts of cannabis as a Class B misdemeanor, which carries penalties of up to 180 days in jail and up to a $2,000 fine.

The bill also specifies that possession of up to two ounces of cannabis would not result in an arrest, meaning violators would be cited and released. Further, people with possession convictions for up to two ounces of marijuana could seek to have those convictions expunged through a court process for a $30 fee.

“I am excited to see this bill be scheduled for floor debate,” Texas NORML Executive Director Jax James told Marijuana Moment. “Reducing penalties for low-level marijuana offenses allows police and the courts to re-prioritize their resources toward addressing more serious crimes.”

“Minor marijuana possession offenders, many of them young people, should not be saddled with a criminal record and the lifelong penalties and stigma associated with it,” she said. “We anticipate this legislation will advance to the Senate.”

The House floor scheduling development comes shortly after the body passed a bill to allow medical marijuana as an opioid alternative for people with chronic pain and also replace the state’s THC limit, sending the legislation to the Senate for consideration.

Nearly three in four Texas voters (72 percent) support decriminalizing marijuana, according to a University of Texas/Texas Politics Project poll in December. More than half (55 percent), meanwhile, said they’re in favor of broader legalization. Seventeen percent said it shouldn’t be legal at all.

A more recent survey from the same institution similarly showed that a majority of Texas voters feel that the state’s marijuana laws should be “less strict.”

Texas lawmakers also recently filed a series of new bills aimed at promoting and expanding psychedelics research in the state.

On the local level in Texas, meanwhile, activists have succeeded in enacting municipal cannabis reform policies. Most recently, voters in five cities—Denton, Elgin, Harker Heights, Killeen and San Marcos passed marijuana decriminalization ballot measures in November.

Local officials in some of those municipalities have sought to undermine the voter-approved cannabis measures, however,

Voters in San Antonio as set to decide on a similar cannabis decriminalization initiative next month. (Full Story)

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