State Representative Harold Dutton, D-Houston, has filed two bills that would lower the penalties for drug possession.
HB 184 would reduce the penalty for possession of less than two ounces of marijuana from a Class B misdemeanor to a Class C misdemeanor. Other Class C misdemeanorsinclude traffic tickets, public intoxication and gambling. Convictions can carry a $500 fine or community service.
Dutton’s other bill, HB 182, would reduce the penalty class for possession of less than one gram of a controlled substance from a state jail felony to a Class A misdemeanor. Controlled substances include cocaine, ecstasy, LSD and heroin. A Class A misdemeanor carries a penalty of up to one year in prison and a $4,000 fine. A state jail felony, on the other hand, could mean 6 – 24 months in jail plus a fine of up to $10,000.
Supporters of the measures say these bills could save Texas taxpayer money. Texas counties would save on indigent defense costs and the Texas Department of Criminal Justice wouldn’t be tied up incarcerating low-risk offenders.
The new legislative session begins on January 8 and is sure to be as contentious as ever. Whether Dutton’s bills will get any attention or not, has yet to be seen.