Texas House Approves Marijuana Decriminalization Bill and Considers Recreational Legalization

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The Texas House of Representatives has given initial approval to a bill that would decriminalize the possession of small amounts of marijuana. The legislation, known as House Bill 218, was passed on its second reading with a voice vote, and one more vote is required before final passage. If passed, the bill would remove criminal penalties for the possession of up to one ounce of marijuana or cannabis concentrate and reclassify it as a Class C misdemeanor, carrying a fine of up to $500 but not resulting in arrest. The legislation also includes provisions for the expungement of some past marijuana possession convictions and reduces penalties for other marijuana offenses.

Under current Texas state law, possession of up to two ounces of cannabis is a Class B misdemeanor, with possession of two to four ounces of marijuana a Class A misdemeanor, subject to up to a year in county jail and a fine of up to $4,000. Possession of more than four ounces of pot or any amount of cannabis concentrate is a felony.

Democratic state Rep. Joe Moody, who sponsored the legislation, emphasized the high costs of arrests for marijuana possession, both financially and for young people’s future opportunities, and the need for reform. The Texas House has passed similar decriminalization bills in the past, but these have not gained approval from the state Senate.

The House was also expected to consider a recreational marijuana legalization bill, House Bill 3652, from Moody on Wednesday. This would allow the use, possession, and transportation of up to 2.5 ounces of cannabis by adults aged 21 and over, as well as home growing of up to 12 cannabis plants. The bill would legalize the commercial production and sale of marijuana products, with a tax rate of 10%, and task the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation with regulating and licensing adult-use cannabis businesses. A separate bill from Democratic state Rep. Jessica González, House Bill 1937, would allow county and municipal governments to legalize recreational marijuana at the local level.

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