A bill that would reduce the penalties for the possession of marijuana in Texas got a hearing Monday.
House Bill 81, authored by Joe Moody (D-El Paso) and Rep. Jason Isaac (R-Dripping Springs), would remove the threat of arrest, jail time and a criminal record for possession of up to one ounce of marijuana and replace them with a civil fine of up to $250. Under current Texas law, individuals found in possession of less than two ounces of marijuana can be arrested and given a criminal record, and they face up to six months in jail and a fine of up to $2,000.
“Passing HB 81 would free up police resources and relieve jails, courts and taxpayers of substantial expense and time demands,” said retired Texas District Court Judge John Delaney in a statement from Texans for Responsible Marijuana Policy. “Each marijuana arrest uses about 2.5 hours of police time. With 60,000-70,000 people arrested in Texas annually, this is a significant amount of police time that could be devoted to patrolling residential neighborhoods and business locations and responding to emergency calls.”
The House Criminal Jurisprudence Committee heard about the bill Monday afternoon. The vote on whether the bill will continue on to the full House will likely take place in the next two weeks.