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EDITORIAL/"Dead on Arrival': Texas bill to reduce marijuna penalties faces major barrier

March 11, 2023 at 10:00 p.m.

Just this past Tuesday, Oklahoma voters on Tuesday overwhelmingly rejected the legalization of marijuana for recreational use by a margin of 62% to 38%

In November, voters in neighboring Arkansas also rejected the idea of recreational pot by a margin of 56% to 44%.

Both states allow the sale of cannabis for medical purposes.

Now it looks like Texas may be a step closer to, if not legalizing the drug, then making it less of a criminal offense.

But don't count on it.

For many years the Lone Star State had some of the toughest drug laws in the country. Until the 1970s possession of any amount of marijuana could result in a minimum of two years in prison to a maximum of life.

Right now, possession of two ounces or less of marijuana is a Class B Misdemeanor and can get you up to 180 days in jail and a $2,000 fine.

On the same days Oklahoma voters turned down recreational marijuana, a Texas state House of Representatives panel unanimously approved legislation reducing possession of up to an ounce of cannabis to a Class C Misdemeanor, which has no threat of arrest or ail time. It would basically be a citation that carries six months probation and a fine of up to $500.

If the person pays the fine and stays out of trouble for the six months, then the arrest could be expunged, resulting in no criminal record.

The bill now goes to the full House for approval. Polls show most Texans favor decriminalization of small amounts of cannabis. So, the bill's prospects look pretty good, right?

Not so fast. State lawmakers tried to decriminalize possession of small amounts of marijuana in 2019 and 2021. Both times the measure passed the House, but stalled in the Senate, where Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick has always opposed decriminalization. Indeed, he has more than once decreed marijuana reform "dead on arrival" in that body.

Reasonable people can debate the pros and cons of decriminalization. But Patrick still presides over the state Senate. And we predict that, no matter what the House does, no matter what the public thinks, this bill won't see the light of day under his watch.

Print Headline: EDITORIAL/"Dead on Arrival': Texas bill to reduce marijuna penalties faces major barrier


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