El Paso State Rep Calls for Full Decriminalization of Marijuana

A bill filed Monday in advance of the upcoming session of the Texas Legislature would make the maximum penalty for the possession of less than an ounce of marijuana a $100 fine. The fine would not count as a criminal conviction and could not considered as such by anyone performing a background check.

Current Texas law classifies the possession of any amount of marijuana less than 2 ounces as a Class B misdemeanor, punishable by up to six months in jail and a fine of no more than $2,000. In 2007, the state passed a law allowing for marijuana users to cited for the misdemeanor and released. Harris, Dallas and Tarrant, the three biggest counties in the state, have not adopted cite-and-release, but Dallas has signaled its intention to do so as part of a January 2015 pilot program.

See also: Dallas County Will Experiment with Not Arresting People Caught with Marijuana

The new decriminalization law, proposed by El Paso Democrat Joe Moody, would make cite-and-release moot.

"Our current marijuana policy in Texas just isn't working," Representative Moody said in a statement announcing his bill. "We need a new approach that allows us to more effectively utilize our limited criminal justice resources. This legislation is a much-needed step in the right direction."

Under the law, Texas law enforcement officers would not be able to make an arrest based solely on the possession of a small amount of pot. The $100 proposed fine could also be waived by a judge if the smoker agreed to complete community service hours or a diversion program.

If House Bill 507 makes it out of the legislative chambers and slips past Governor-elect Greg Abbott's desk, it would take effect September 1, 2015.

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