Right now, possession of up to two ounces of marijuana in Texas is a Class B misdemeanor, punishable by up to 180 days in jail, $2,000 fine, a driver's license suspension and ineligibility to have a firearms license for 5 years.
That could change. Maybe.
Last week the Texas House passed a bill to make possession of an ounce or less of marijuana a Class C misdemeanor. That means no arrest, no jail time and no license issues. The bill has a provision for offenders to have their records expunged.
We think most Texans would agree the police have better things to do than arrest casual marijuana users. And indeed some departments already issue citations for small amounts of pot rather than tie up time and manpower in taking suspects to jail. The bill seems to solve the problem without the state condoning marijuana use.
But there are still opponents to any sort of decriminalization of marijuana. And one of the biggest is Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, who can make or break legislation when it reaches the state Senate.
This isn't the first time Texas has tried to reduce penalties for possession of marijuana. Patrick killed a similar bill without a Senate vote last session. He's given no indication his views have changed since then.
The House has voted to decriminalize marijuana possession. It looks like Gov. Greg Abbott would sign this common-sense legislation if it reaches his desk. But the bill's fate rests with Patrick.