AUSTIN, TX – Two separate Texan lawmakers have filed separate bills in the state legislature to relax marijuana laws in the Lone Star State, although the proposals stop short of decriminalization or the legalization of medical marijuana.
Representative Harold Dutton (D-Houston) has filed a penalty reduction bill, HB 182, that would reclassify possession of up to one ounce of marijuana from a Class B misdemeanor, which carries a maximum $2,000 fine and 180 days in jail, to a Class C misdemeanor, which carries a possible $500 fine and no jail time. While stopping short of decriminalization, the penalty reduction proposal would be significant for a state known to have some of the toughest drug laws in the country.
Meanwhile, Rep. Elliot Naishtat (D-Austin) has filed a bill that would not legalize medical marijuana in Texas, but would provide some protection for medical marijuana patients to avoid punishment.
Under his bill, HB 594, a person arrested for marijuana could enter evidence that their doctor gave instructions that use of the drug could provide benefits for their illness, leading to a dismissal of the charges. The bill also provides protections for physicians who recommend marijuana use to their patients.
The Marijuana Policy Project is supporting the bill, while still calling it, “far from perfect.”
“Patients would not be protected from arrest and would have no legal way to obtain marijuana. Still, it’s a significant improvement over current Texas law,” said Dan Riffle of the Marijuana Policy Project.
Over the past 10 years, various efforts have failed to win approval in the Texas Legislature to legalize marijuana for medical uses.