State and local politicians will discuss marijuana policy in Texas again this month. While there has been lots of recent attention given to this topic in Texas, this discussion includes both the City of Dallas as well as the State's laws on the decriminalization of cannabis.
The Dallas City Council will consider ending the Dallas Police Department’s policy to arrest people for possessing small amounts of marijuana when they meet next week. According to the Dallas Observer, 5 members of the City Council pushed the policy last year but failed to gain approval, This same group has now pushed cite-and-release back on the council calendar. The policy allows police to issue tickets for marijuana possession rather than making arrests. The current penalties for weed possession would remain unchanged: a $2,000 fine and up to six months in jail for possession of two ounces or less.
This local debate takes place as the state of Texas also debates the issue. The State's House of Representatives took a big step recently when Bill 81 passed out of the Texas House Criminal Jurisprudence Committee. This bill would make possession of up to an ounce of marijuana punishable by a fine of $250 instead of a criminal charge as well as make it so that a person could not be arrested solely for possession of the small amount of pot.
This bill is sponsored by Texas Representative Joe Moody and the bill would get rid of criminal penalties for people caught with less than an ounce of pot and treat minor possession like a traffic ticket. Moody has been pushing for decriminalization in Texas for a few years in now.
Also from the Dallas Observer:
This time around, Moody’s bill also got out of committee with plenty of time to spare before the end of the session. That wasn’t the case two years ago, when the bill made it to the Calendars Committee with just a few days left before recess. Monday, Moody said that's key to the bill's future hopes.
"I'm excited to have passed our civil penalty bill out of committee almost five weeks earlier than a similar bill left committee last session. That reflects the bipartisan support this effort has gained across the state, and I think we'll continue to see that moving forward," Moody said. "Texans know the time has come to use our limited law enforcement resources in the most effective way possible by being smarter on marijuana policy."
If Moody’s bill, which passed the Criminal Jurisprudence Committee with a bipartisan 4-2 vote, passes the Texas House, it would then need to be passed by the Texas Senate and signed by Texas Governor Greg Abbott to become law.