Officials weigh in on bill that would reduce marijuana penalties in Texas

Officials weigh in on bill that would reduce marijuana penalties in Texas

AMARILLO, TX (KFDA) - There are mixed reviews in the Amarillo community about a bill that would lessen penalties for small amounts of marijuana.

On Monday, House Bill 81 passed the Texas House's criminal committee with a 4-2 vote. This bill would replace arrests and jail time with a $250 max civil fine for anyone caught with an ounce or less of marijuana.

"Here I don't think it's going to affect us as much," says Potter County Sheriff Brian Thomas. "As far as what our department does, I mean, what we get is for the most part is more than 2 ounces, so it still falls under a class B misdemeanor."

Thomas says regardless of whether a person has two ounces or one ounce, the caseload is still the same, and this bill would not lessen or create more work.

But Attorney and Deputy Director for Amarillo's NORML chapter Ryan Brown tells us, he thinks the bill is a great idea to save taxpayers money.

"This is billions of dollars spent, just on housing people. And that's not even counting police time processing these cases, taking them to the jail, booking them through, court staff, all this other stuff that costs money."

Thomas says he is worried passing the bill would be a step in the direction of legalizing marijuana, which he does not agree with. But on the other hand...

"Do I agree that somebody with less than one ounce of marijuana should be in jail? Probably not. Write them a ticket, let's go on and move on. Because we do have much more serious things that we have to put people in jail for. So I'm kind of on a double edge there, that's kind of a double answer. But I still am not for the legalization of marijuana. Now if it's a medical marijuana situation, that's for a medical doctor to determine. If he determines that and the state allows that, then that's their decision."

Thomas says he will continue to follow whatever laws the state puts in place, as they are in place for a reason.

Brown however hopes Texas will follow another model.

"I think we can see a good model for government in Colorado, they've had this legalized for 3 years now I guess. People are still showing up to work. I think that their experience proves this is not a gateway drug any more than alcohol is."

The measure is now headed toward the House floor for a full vote.

To read the entire bill, click here.

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