“House Bill 81 would eliminate the arrest, the jail time, and most importantly, the criminal record currently associated with small amounts of marijuana,” Heather Fazio, the Texas political director for the Marijuana Policy Project, in an interview with KSNT. “The bill will recalibrate penalties for low-level possession, making it a simple ticket, rather than jail time and a criminal record.”
In 2015 there were more than 60,000 arrests for simple marijuana possession in the state of Texas, which amounted to more than 13% of all arrests made in the state that year and came at a cost to Texas taxpayers of $1.5 billion.
According to HB 81 supporters, that’s money that could be well spent somewhere else.
“People want to feel safe in their communities and when we’re prosecuting and arresting people for simple marijuana possession, we’re not giving justice to violent crimes where victims deserve justice,” said Fazio. “It is absolutely outrageous when burglary clearance rates are low, and violent and property crime is going unsolved.”
To add insult to injury, most of the simple possession charges are dismissed anyway. In Travis County alone around 50% of marijuana possession cases are being dismissed, according to Fazio.
Unsurprisingly the Sheriffs’ Association of Texas doesn’t think reducing penalties for minor marijuana possession charges is worth trying.
The association is opposed to HB 81 and any form of legalization or decriminalization of marijuana, even in small amounts. “Generally, as a social cost of the use of the drug, we believe strong that it’s always been a gateway drug.”
In 2015 Texas lawmakers passed a limited CBD/low THC oil law for epilepsy patients. The program is set to begin next fall and will be overseen by the Texas Department of Public Safety.
A recent poll conducted jointly between the University of Texas and the Texas Tribune show that a vast majority of Texans — around 83 percent — are in favor of legalizing marijuana for medical purposes.