Bill seeks to soften marijuana penalties in Texas


by Sergio Chapa

Posted: 12.30.2012 at 12:22 AM

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The Texas Legislature meets in January but House Bill 184 is already filed and seeks to soften penalties for marijuana possession.

Filed by Texs State Rep. Harold Dutton (D-Houston),  the bill would reduce possession of one ounce of marijuana to just a Class C misdemeanor.

That’s a $500 dollar fine and no jail time and reportedly enough marijuana to make between 14 to 28 hand-rolled cigarettes.

Action 4 Mews spoke via Skype to Josh Schimberg with the Texas chapter of National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML).

The Austin-based group favors full legalization but Schimberg says the HB 184 is a step in the right direction.

“We are under no illusions that full decriminalization is gonna come to Texas any time soon,” Schimberg said. “We just hope that this bill gets traction and maybe possibly gets passed."

Valley Reaction

House Bill 184 is being touted as a way save money for courts and police departments and a way to reduce overcrowding in jails.

In the Rio Grande Valley, that’s something that Rene Jaime can agree with.

Jaime owns the Dark Secrets Smoke Shop in Brownsville.

He supports the bill.

“As a taxpayer myself, I see them putting out money to get that guy a free lawyer and a free meal while all the time in jail,” I want that money in my pocket…"

Jaime says police should go after felonies and take harder drugs like cocaine, crack and heroin off the streets.

“I see young kids and old people who get addicted with one try,” he said. “Those are the drugs that one really needs to get off the streets."

Lobbying Efforts

Back in Austin, Schimberg said supporters of the bill will be meeting with lawmakers in the Texas State Capitol.

It’s an uphill battle in a Republican-controlled legislature, but the Texas Democratic Party already has the legalization of marijuana as part of their 2012 statewide platform.

Schimberg said it’s only a matter of time before the rest of the state gets on the same the page.

“If you wanna protect children from marijuana, the best to do with it is to legalize it and put it behind a store front and ask for ID,” he said.

Valley Lawmakers

Action 4 News attempted to reach the Rio Grande Valley’s eight state representatives on Friday.

Most comment be reached for comment.

But the Valley’s lone Republican lawmaker Aaron Peña (R-Edinburg) said the bill or similar ones are introduced every legislative session.

Peña said the bill will have a tough battle without a component to send users to rehab or other drug treatment programs.

“If you’re going to make a judgment based on the past, it’s not likely to pass,” Peña said. “However, there is a growing awareness that we need to empty our jails of minor drug offenders and divert them to treatment.”

CONTINUE READING AND TO VIDEO…

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