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Texas lawmakers consider relaxing penalties for pot possession

Did you know that about 61,500 people were arrested for possession of marijuana in 2015? That means tens of thousands of people faced the possibility of a stain on their criminal record and even jail time in one year alone, all for an offense that people argue is not serious.

Marijuana possession is a crime in Texas, there is no doubt about that. However, there are doubts over whether aggressively pursuing and punishing people for this particular drug offense is effective and/or necessary. Recently, arguments in favor of decriminalizing small quantities of marijuana in the state were made in front of the House Criminal Jurisprudence Committee.

Arguments that favor decriminalization largely hinge on a few main points. First, tens of thousands of people wind up with a serious criminal offense on their record for what is ultimately a non-serious offense. Jails are overcrowded with low-level drug offenders; people lose valuable educational and professional opportunities; otherwise-law-abiding Texans are saddled with a criminal record and huge financial penalties. 

Further, there has been a growing shift in attitudes toward marijuana. Many more people see it as being more beneficial than harmful, and state law changes reflect these attitudes. States across the U.S. are decriminalizing marijuana and some treat it more like alcohol than an illegal drug. 

These are among the arguments made in favor of decriminalizing small amounts of pot. The proposed bill would mean a fine of $250 for possession of less than one ounce of marijuana in this state. Currently, Texans can spend six months in jail and be required to pay $2,000 for possession of two ounces.

Whether the bill will pass or not remains to be seen. However, in the meantime, it is critical for readers to take seriously their defense if they are charged with possession of marijuana. There are still very harsh penalties in place, and you can work with an attorney to hopefully reduce or avoid them altogether.

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