Denton County votes to oppose marijuana penalty reductions
Several bills have been introduced in the Texas legislative session this year pertaining to marijuana, and two of them would decrease the penalty for marijuana possession.
Denton County commissioners have recently voted 5-0 to oppose them according to the Denton Record-Chronicle.
House Bill 3326 would decrease the punishment for certain misdemeanor and felony offenses that involve property crimes, drug possession and other miscellaneous violations. If passed, it would also reduce the number of people being sent to state jail.
House Bill 507 would make possession of an ounce or less of marijuana a $100 ticket and would involve no jail time.
“It’s crazy to make possession of marijuana a traffic ticket,” said Hugh Coleman, commissioner for Precinct 2.
In their letter, commissioners said the measure might reduce the number of people sent to state prison, but county jails would feel the impact. Counties would see an increase in costs because they would have to supervise people convicted of a misdemeanor for longer periods without adequate funding, the letter claims.
The assumption was reiterated by County Judge Mary Horn, who mentioned during Tuesday’s meeting that she was under the impression that making possession of less than an ounce of marijuana less punishable means the county would see an increase in inmates at the county jail.
“I don’t know how it would fill up our jails, but maybe our JP courts,” Coleman said at the meeting.
Coleman said that if it passes, the bill could potentially change possession of less than an ounce of marijuana from a Class B misdemeanor — which offers a punishment of up to 180 days in jail — to a Class C misdemeanor, a citation with no jail time.
Coleman doesn’t feel that a criminal offense for possession of a small amount of marijuana should change because he considers marijuana to be a gateway drug.
“What you’re seeing here is the end of marijuana prohibition, a change in attitudes and a real shift in law enforcement,” Michael Collins, national policy manager for the Drug Policy Alliance, told the Washington Post in a Feb. 25 article. “[It is] a huge step forward in the national fight for legalization.”
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