On April 30, the Texas House of Representatives passed House Bill 441 with 88-40 votes. Effectively, HB 441 could reduce the penalties for low-level marijuana possession charges. Plus, the bill could help many Texans already charged with possession as it would allow them to wipe charges from their criminal records.
House Bill 441
The new bill reclassified possession of an ounce or less of marijuana as a Class C misdemeanor. The House approved it on second reading by a choice vote. Currently, state law classifies the possession of two or fewer ounces as a Class B misdemeanor.
Moreover, Texas State Rep. Erin Zwiener introduced HB 441. Zwiener consulted with the office of Gov. Greg Abbott and commended its bipartisan support for marijuana criminal penalty reduction. Also, Zwiener expressed that the bill would be a major step forward in battling the over-criminalization of marijuana. Furthermore, Zwiener claimed that the current possession charges bear heavy consequences on Texans who make small mistakes and consume marijuana recreationally.
According to Zwiener, the current penalties can create difficulties for Texans who want to apply for jobs or financial aid. Additionally, she believes that HB 441 will provide a solution for the overpopulation of jails. Furthermore, it could direct the criminal justice system towards solving more violent offenses while easing the burden on the taxpayers.
Class C Misdemeanor for Marijuana Possession
In Texas, approximately 70,000 citizens are arrested each year for low-level cannabis possession. Right now, the law classifies the possession of two or fewer ounces of marijuana as a Class B misdemeanor. It entails a fine of $2,000 or less. Plus, it could include a license suspension of up to 180 days and a prison sentence of up to 180 days.
If the new measure passes in the Senate, low-level possession of up to one ounce of cannabis will become a Class C misdemeanor. Therefore, it would be punishable by a fine of $500 or less. What’s more, it would not include a license suspension or jail time. Also, the new law would create an expungement and deferred dispensation process. The process could apply to the first offense of an individual within a 1-year period. That way, low-level possession, and small mistakes will not end up on one’s permanent records.
Obstacles to Marijuana Penalty Reduction
Rep. Erin Zwiener believes that there could be challenges once the bill moves to the Senate. In 2019, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick opposed a similar marijuana decriminalization bill. It was approved by the House, but Patrick proclaimed it “dead” shortly after. Still, a University of Texas poll from 2021 shows that the state’s voters support the decriminalization of marijuana. In fact, 60% of voters believe that the possession of small as well as large amounts of cannabis should be legal, regardless of the purpose.
Overall, House Bill 441 ended a busy month for marijuana legislation. Members have also attempted to put forward several other proposals. Some aim to expand the medical cannabis program. Additionally, other bills include the reduction of penalties for possessing cannabis concentrate and the study of the therapeutic potential of MDMA and psilocybin.
How A-EZ Out Bail Bonds Can Help
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