Marijuana Bill Clears House Panel

Marijuana Bill Clears House Panel
Posted by CN Staff on April 16, 2005 at 10:11:22 PT
By Matt Frazier, Star-Telegram Staff Writer
Source: Star-Telegram
Texas lawmakers are one step closer to making possession of an ounce or less of marijuana a Class C misdemeanor, the same category as most traffic violations.The House Criminal Jurisprudence Committee approved House Bill 254 on Thursday, setting the bill up for debate on the House floor. Current law assigns the same punishment for possession of a few seeds of marijuana as it does for as much as 2 ounces.
If the bill, sponsored by Rep. Harold Dutton, D-Houston, is approved, those caught in Texas with a small amount of marijuana would pay a fine and attend a drug-abuse-awareness class.To comply with federal law, they would also have to give up their driver's license for six months, although judges can grant an occupational license.Those caught three times within 24 months would face a Class B misdemeanor punishable by up to six months in jail and a $2,000 fine.The American Civil Liberties Union and the Austin chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws have testified in support of the bill, saying it would save the state millions in jail costs and give casual users the help they need to quit.Opponents have said that lowering the penalty would send the wrong message and increase marijuana use. Source: Ft. Worth Star-Telegram (TX)Author: Matt Frazier, Star-Telegram Staff WriterPublished: April 15, 2005Copyright: 2005 Star-TelegramContact: letters star-telegram.comWebsite: Articles & Web Site:Austin NORMLP.O. Box 2221Austin, TX 78767-2221Contact: Judie NiskalaE-mail: judie austinnorml.comBill Would Cut Penalties for Drug Ponders Pot Laws to Save Prison Space's Plea on Pot Penalty
Home Comment Email Register Recent Comments Help

Comment #12 posted by Taylor121 on April 17, 2005 at 13:25:06 PT
I wouldn't go too far on Texas deferred
"To be honest, so many adults are arrested for marijuana in Texas that they are often let off with deferred adjudication in most cases involving simple possession. For example, the courts order that if you don't get caught again in six months, the matter is dropped and your record is expunged."I am currently on deferred adjudication and I wouldn't call it expungement for a couple of reasons. Although it will allow you to asnwer the question on applications "Have you ever been convicted of a crime?" with a no, the fact you were arrested for marijuana possession and the fact you were on deferred adjudication probation for that offense will still be availiable, it will just show deferred, but anyone in Texas knows that means you pleaded out and you were most likely guilty. The good news is in Texas is they passed a law in 2003 that allows you to seal your records completely from all jobs that don't involve mechanical operation (such as flying planes/operating heavy machinery) if you do not commit any further offenses. It is 5 years for misdemeanors and 10 years for felonies. I still wouldn't even call this expungement, although I believe the state does. I just calling it sealing your record because cops still have full access to your prior history.
[ Post Comment ]

Comment #11 posted by OverwhelmSam on April 17, 2005 at 04:27:48 PT
Here's what I sent, an adapted version of the NORML letter:Re: HB 245 Will Save Law Enforcement Resources and Help Reduce Outrageous Property TaxesDear Representative ---As your constituent, I urge you to support House Bill 254. If passed, HB 254 would amend penalties for the minor possession of up to one ounce of marijuana to a Class C misdemeanor -- punishable by a citation and a fine of up to $500.00. Possession would remain an offense, but not a crime that fills our jails and prisons with a multitude of everyday adults who simply prefer marijuana over the potential destruction of alcohol addiction, or other truly dangerous drugs.According to FBI data, an estimated 52,000 of our fellow Texans are arrested annually for marijuana violations -- the third highest total of any state in the nation! Of these, some 50,000 -- or 97% -- are arrested for simple possession only, not cultivation or sale or any other crime. The total annual cost of these arrests to Texas taxpayers is a staggering $479.9 million! Surely, our limited law enforcement resources would better serve our citizens by targeting more serious property and violent crimes.Moreover, 75 percent of all citizens arrested in Texas for marijuana possession are under 30 years old. Passage of HB 254 will assure that the youthful indiscretion of tens of thousands of otherwise normal law-abiding citizens will not result in the lifelong indignity and lack of opportunity that accompanies a criminal record.
Since the mid-1990s, Texans have spent billions of dollars building additional prisons and jails to house more than 155,000 inmates -- nearly twice as many as only a decade ago. Approving HB 254 will relieve the stress on our overcrowded prison system, while freeing up hundreds of millions of taxpayers' dollars and criminal justices resources that can be better utilized targeting serious property and violent crimes.As a Texan, a payer of excessive property and sales taxes, and as your constituent, I urge you to represent the majority of Texans who are tired of seeing their own children, close family members and dearest friends being subjected to what amounts to cruel and unusual punishment for the possession and use of a relatively benign plant, and reduce our tax burden by supporting the passage of House Bill 254. Thank you in advance for your attention to this matter.Sincerely,
[ Post Comment ]

Comment #10 posted by OverwhelmSam on April 17, 2005 at 03:30:26 PT
Practically Legal In Texas Already
To be honest, so many adults are arrested for marijuana in Texas that they are often let off with deferred adjudication in most cases involving simple possession. For example, the courts order that if you don't get caught again in six months, the matter is dropped and your record is expunged. It's still inconvenient to have to spend a few hours out of your normal routine being processed at the police station. Now with this bill passed, I expect that law enforcement officials will use their discretion to just confiscate the weed for themselves and let people off with a warning, as the courts will probably begin to just dismiss this petty type of offence. I like to equate marijuana possession to spitting on the sidewalk - no big deal.My hat's off to you Taylor, and yes I right my reps too. It's in the state legislatures where We The People have the most power and influence over the Federal Government, because the people have the most influence over their state representatives, and the states have the most influence over the federal laws.Overwhelm Uncle Sam
[ Post Comment ]

Comment #9 posted by mayan on April 16, 2005 at 16:15:06 PT
Opponents have said that lowering the penalty would send the wrong message and increase marijuana use.The opponent's numbers seem to be dwindling fast as of late. Maybe they realize they are fighting a losing battle.It would really be something if this passes, being in Bush's home state! Talk about a slap in the face! THE WAY OUT...C-Span to Tape David Ray Griffin at Talk at UW-Madison Monday: To Cover 9/11 Truth Talk At UW-Madison Monday:
[ Post Comment ]

Comment #8 posted by Taylor121 on April 16, 2005 at 15:21:17 PT
My letter to my rep supporting H.B. 254
As your constituent, I strongly implore you to support H.B. 254 which 
would lessen penalties for 1 one ounce or less of marijuana to a class C 
misdemeanor. Things are clogged in the Texas criminal justice system. Jails are at the 
threshold of being overcrowded and the need for more beds and space for 
criminals are becoming all too genuine. To compensate, the state either 
has to start revising some of its criminal statutes for certain offenses 
or build more jails, order more beds, and hire more personnel to deal with 
the increased amount of arrests overall and send the check to Texas 
taxpayers.  A huge contribution to the overcrowding predicament comes from marijuana 
related arrests. In 2003, there were over 51,563 marijuana related arrests 
in Texas. This is 57% of all state wide arrests in Texas and each one of 
these arrests costs the state approximately $10,400. In addition, our 
probation officers already have an overbooked caseload. H.B. 254 strikes a good balance between saving state resources and 
handling our marijuana problem. As substituted in committee, the bill 
requires a drug education class along with an evaluation to keep marijuana 
offenders aware of the dangers the drug poses while making sure they are 
in good health. To comply with Federal law, the bill would suspend the 
offender’s driver’s license ensuring Texas keeps all of its highway funds. 
At the same time, the substitute would reduce the penalty from a class B 
misdemeanor to a class C which would have these offenders pay into the 
system rather than cost counties money. This would free up a significant 
quantity of jail space and would decrease probation caseloads saving Texas 
taxpayers a tremendous sum of money. This bill would also save police time 
to go after more serious offenses by allowing them to use discretion for 
an arrest in this category. I strongly believe it is important to allocate 
our criminal justice resources to the most important concerns that 
directly harm society including property theft and violent crimes instead 
of on small amounts of marijuana.I acknowledge that marijuana is not a harmless substance, but neither are 
many other legally used recreational substances such as alcohol and 
tobacco. As recognized in the February 2005 issue of the scientific 
medical journal Current Opinion in Pharmacology, “Overall, by comparison 
with other drugs used mainly for ‘recreational’ purposes, cannabis could 
be rated to be a relatively safe drug.” H.B. 254 would keep all marijuana 
offenses completely illegal, but would modify the law in an elegant way to 
deal with both the problems surrounding the drug and saving Texas vastly 
substantial amounts of resources. Similar legislation that has passed in 
other states that reduced penalties for around the same quantity of 
marijuana has not resulted in an increase in marijuana use. The Texas 
House Criminal Jurisprudence Committee recently unanimously voted 
favorably on the committee substitute of H.B. 254 with 6 Ayes and 0 Nays 
(with 3 absent). H.B. 254 is a sensible bill that would take a balanced approach to 
addressing Texas’s marijuana problem along with our overburdened criminal 
justice system. I strongly urge you to vote yes and support this 
legislation when it comes to the house floor. Thank you.
[ Post Comment ]

Comment #7 posted by Taylor121 on April 16, 2005 at 15:10:32 PT
On the Governor
"Yes, a link to write to the governor/interested parties is a very good idea, and now.
"Well I wrote a letter in support of H.B. 254 and probation reform bill earlier in the session, but I don't intend to write the governor unless the bill reaches the senate floor most likely. However, to those in Texas interested, is where you can contact Gov. Perry. Make sure in your letter you include the fact that it complies with Federal laws so Texas will continue to get all its highway money and make double sure he knows this bill does not legalize marijuana in any way, and marijuana will remain completely illegal.Perry does not like the idea of legalizing marijuana and he is confused by the term decriminalization as well. So I suggest saying "Lessen marijuana penalties" so his office doesn't instantly brand the bill as legalization, because it isn't even close.
[ Post Comment ]

Comment #6 posted by global_warming on April 16, 2005 at 14:40:35 PT
ot Problem Of Human Suffering
We have come a long way.Sometimes I think that places like Texas and much of the south, has a lot farther to
Problem Of Human Suffering
[ Post Comment ]

Comment #5 posted by rchandar on April 16, 2005 at 14:37:33 PT:
yes--I think it would send the country a very strong message--that we aren't going away, and that politicians inevitably must respond to the demand for rights among people. Yes, a link to write to the governor/interested parties is a very good idea, and now.--rchandar
[ Post Comment ]

Comment #4 posted by FoM on April 16, 2005 at 11:02:43 PT
All I can think to say is we've come a long way baby!
[ Post Comment ]

Comment #3 posted by goneposthole on April 16, 2005 at 10:59:06 PT
the way we were
"Punishment for teaching slaves or free persons of color to read. -- If any slave, Negro, or free person of color, or any white person, shall teach any other slave, Negro, or free person of color, to read or write either written or printed characters, the said free person of color or slave shall be punished by fine and whipping, or fine or whipping, at the discretion of the court.", the punishment for a slave or a free person who gets caught smoking cannabis is far worse.That's progress!
[ Post Comment ]

Comment #2 posted by FoM on April 16, 2005 at 10:50:45 PT
I want this to happen just because it is so important to you. I think my state might still have something going on as far as medical marijuana but I'm more anxious for Texas. Keep your enthusiasm. It can change things!
[ Post Comment ]

Comment #1 posted by Taylor121 on April 16, 2005 at 10:44:53 PT
I hope it moves quick
I really hope the bill gets a vote soon on the house floor. We need to start lobbying the Senate committee. I want this bill to go through this session! I know that is wishful thinking, but it still has enough time. All Texans need to be aware that if we fail, we have a 2 year wait before we can try again, so let's stay on the ball. I haven't read anything that would clearly indicate that Gov. Perry would veto this legislation unlike HB 658, the medical marijuana bill. On the other hand, he never said he would sign it. We need to push this bill through and make sure it passes the house and senate by a large margin plus send a flurry of letters in support of H.B. 254 to send a clear message go Gov. Perry that Texans want this bill.
[ Post Comment ]

Post Comment