According to a 2021 University of Texas poll, a majority of Texas voters are in favor of legalizing recreational marijuana, even in large amounts. Though 60% of Texans think that smoking marijuana shouldn’t be a crime, it still is. However, new legislation may lessen the criminal penalties for marijuana possession in this state.
House Bill 441 passed through the House 88-40
In 2021, HB 441 passed the House with an overwhelming majority. However, the bill has yet to get approved by the Senate. If it passes, HB 441 would make possession of 1 ounce or less of marijuana a Class C misdemeanor with no jail time. Right now, possession of 2 ounces or less of marijuana is considered a Class B misdemeanor with a possible jail sentence of up to 180 days. HB 441 would also do away with the $2,000 fine for small amounts of marijuana.
No arrests for small quantities of marijuana
In addition to eliminating the potential of jail time for small quantities of marijuana, HB 441 would also eliminate unnecessary police actions. Police would not be allowed to make arrests of people who were caught with less than 1 ounce of marijuana. Under state criminal law, Class C misdemeanors also do not carry penalties like automatic driver’s license and firearm suspension.
Marijuana arrests can aggravate racial and income disparities
Rep. Steve Toth commented that, while he doesn’t support decriminalization of marijuana, he does agree that something should be done about racial disparity in marijuana arrests. In 2020, the American Civil Liberties Union reported that marijuana usage rates are similar among all races, yet Black Texans are 2.6 times more likely to be arrested on marijuana possession charges.
The financial consequences of a Class B misdemeanor can be hard for a lot of Texans to recover from. If the penalties for marijuana possession are reduced, it may be easier for Texans to move on with their lives after a drug arrest.