Laws concerning marijuana use and possession have been evolving rapidly in many U.S. states. Medical marijuana is legal in several states now, and Colorado recently made it legal to use marijuana for recreational purposes. Texas is one state that has not budged an inch on the matter, but that could be changing soon. The Lone Star State has some of the toughest marijuana laws in the U.S., but a few state legislators and several others are seeking to change that.
Texas’s Tough Marijuana Laws
Just as many states have relaxed or even eliminated many laws concerning the use of marijuana, Texas continues to throw the book at people for possessing small quantities of the drug. Indeed, if you are caught with even a tiny amount of marijuana in the state of Texas, you can technically be sentenced to up to six months in jail. That is true even if it is your first offense. As it stands right now, possessing up to two pounds of marijuana can result in jail time of six months to two years and fines of $2,000 to $10,000. If you are caught with pot in Houston or anywhere in Texas, it is in your best interests to retain an experienced Houston drug lawyer right away.
New Bills Seek to Reduce Marijuana-Related Penalties
Recent polls have shown that 58 percent of Americans support the legalization of marijuana. The same exact percentage of Texans support legalization too, so it is not that public opinion in the state is too much different than it is elsewhere in the country. So far, though, public opinion has not been enough to prompt changes to the state’s strict laws.
State Rep. Harold Dutton is trying to get a bill passed that would reduce penalties for those who are caught possessing small amounts of marijuana. The fact that this is the fourth attempt to get the bill onto the governor’s desk for a signature is telling. Representative Dutton’s persistence is largely prompted by the overwhelming support of legalization in the state. After all, in a democracy, public opinion should be taken into consideration when it comes to these kinds of laws, right?
Another bill, which is being championed by State Rep. Elliott Naishtat, would allow for the medicinal use of marijuana. It would be quite limited, though, because people could still be charged with possession. If they use the drug for medicinal purposes, however, they could use that fact as a valid defense, and the judge would have the ability to dismiss the charges at his or her discretion.
Jury Nullification and Texas Marijuana Possession Laws
An especially interesting development involves the use of jury nullification to fight back against oppressive marijuana laws. A jury that disagrees with a law can acquit a defendant that it believes is guilty. This process is known as jury nullification because the jury essentially nullifies an existing law and refuses to convict people for it. There is a long tradition of jury nullification in the U.S., and it has generally been used to reflect changing social values. With more than half of the people in the country supporting the legalization of marijuana, change is certainly afoot.
Harsh Punishments for Marijuana Still on the Books
As promising as the new bills and jury nullification may be, the fact is that you can still have the book thrown at you if you are caught possessing even tiny amounts of marijuana in Texas. If you are charged with the possession of marijuana, you cannot count on nullification to avoid punishment. It is still crucial to retain an experienced criminal defense lawyer. That is especially true if you have been charged with a probation violation stemming from possession. The tide is turning, and these laws could soon change. In the meantime, keep in mind that possessing even the smallest amount of marijuana is still a class B misdemeanor in Texas.