The Houston Press is reporting that Harold Dutton, the longtime State Representative for District 142, is vociferously supporting a bill he introduced, that would decriminalize possessing less than 1 ounce of pot.
The exact penalty, a Class C Misdemeanor, would be roughly equivalent to that of Public Intoxication, Minor in Possession (of Alcohol) or Disorderly Conduct. Dutton claims that “Of the 70,000 cases filed on Marijuana possession in Texas, about 30,000 encompass the possession of two ounces or less.” It is worth noting that Dutton has tried this before, and the bill never even made it out of committee. Let us hope this year’s bill does not suffer the same fate.
For what it’s worth, I have been a big proponent of pot legalization for a number of years, but am always willing to take baby steps towards that goals by doing things like supporting decriminalization and medical pot. My position for why to legalize, however, is probably very different than most people my age. It is from an approach of fiscal conservatism. For example, I spent a number of weeks last year working at a Harris County Criminal Court at Law. Probably half of the cases in the court were POMs (pot possession). If you made general possession a decriminalized offense, most of these cases would never go before a court, thus freeing up money for court costs, police, prisons, etc. In addition, the police could use their precious time going after actual violent criminals.
For what it’s worth, Hair Balls got a big fact wrong. They incorrectly identified Dutton’s bill of decriminalization as HB 192, it is actually HB 184.