Reading through the news sites this week, the media seems to be heavily speculating that Texas weed decriminalization is on the horizon. Keep in mind that this is the same state that is now legally requiring women to follow up an abortion with a funeral
, so let’s not be hasty in calling them progressive. But is decriminalization of weed even all that progressive these days? No matter your answer, marijuana decriminalization in Texas is still far from a done deal.
“Trying to Clean the Statue of Liberty by Licking It”
The media fervor over decriminalization in Texas kicked off because state legislators actually filed a series of official requests for decriminalization on November 5th
. However, Representative Harold Dutton of Houston also recently told Houston NORML
that trying to legalize Texas weed in any way, shape, or form could be likened to “trying to clean the Statue of Liberty by licking it.” Not exactly confidence-inducing. Still, you have to admire the fighting spirit of those trying to pass decriminalization bills; the requests were submitted on the very first date of open bill filling for the 2017 legal cycle.
The Push for Decriminalized Texas Weed
This isn’t the first time officials have pushed for more leniency where marijuana is concerned but it may be the most emphatic. Representative Joe Moody posited a bill with a relatively conservative approach in which possession of an ounce or less could get you a $250 fine as opposed to jail time. Under this bill, the fined parties would have no infractions to their criminal records. Texas Senator Jose Rodriguez submitted a bill that would reduce possession of an ounce or less of weed to a civil offense. Dutton has been submitting the same bill since 2003 to no avail but that didn’t stop him from resubmitting it on November 5th
. His is the most ambitious of the bunch, pushing to reduce possession of an ounce or less of weed to a Class C misdemeanor. Under Dutton’s bill, possession of an ounce of marijuana would be no more detrimental to a Texan’s record than a speeding ticket. Of course, writing this from a state that has just legalized recreational marijuana, it doesn’t seem like progress. But to Texas weed enthusiasts, it could mean a world of difference.
Current Texas Marijuana Laws
As the law currently stands, possession of less than two ounces of Texas weed can land you 180 days in jail with a misdemeanor charge. If the arrested party exceeds this amount up to four ounces, that jail sentence is bumped up to a year. Exceeding four ounces earns a felony charge and anywhere between two years and a ludicrous 99 years in prison. As of 2015, medical marijuana is available in exceedingly rare cases involving epilepsy and other serious diseases. With such a conservative approach to marijuana as the status quo, decriminalization seems like a tall order.
In spite of this, Rodriguez has submitted two proposals for legalization in addition to his decriminalization request. If Dutton’s bills seemed ambitious, the proposals submitted by Rodriguez seem like a fantasy. One expands on Texas’s admittedly weak medical marijuana bill already in play, the other goes whole hog in a bid for recreational marijuana. Perhaps he’s throwing everything at the wall to see what sticks or is emboldened by the recent string of legalization activities, most of which passed a few days after he filed his requests.
It’s hard to pin the future of Texas weed on the national political climate. On the one hand, we have Obama saying his most encouraging words about federal legalization. On the other hand, he’s saying these words on his way out the door. And the guy taking his place has already appointed a couple of prohibitionists to high ranking positions. Trying to get an accurate read from the national barometer has never been trickier. True to the state’s nickname, Texas could very well be the last state standing against federal legalization in the end, a lone star in a void of possibility. But the people of Texas seem to want their weed and ignoring the people for too long often results in disastrous consequences.