An unexpected coalition of police officers, prosecutors, and judges has come out in favor of bills in the Texas Legislature that would decriminalize the possession of small amounts of marijuana, News Radio 1200 WOAI reports.
State Rep. Joe Moody, who is the sponsor of one of the bills, says simple possession of marijuana amounts to six percent of all of the arrests made by police in Texas last year, and he points out that the number of arrests is holding steady, which means that a strong police presence is not deterring people from possessing marijuana for personal, recreational use.
And he says having to arrest marijuana smokers takes police away from investigating real crimes.
"Because an officer that makes a marijuana arrest is off the street, sometimes, for half of their shift, dealing with processing and paperwork."
Moody says nobody goes into police work because they are excited about the possibility of busting somebody for possession of a joint of marijuana.
"No police officer, no prosecutor, anywhere in the state brags about the 'kid with a joint' case," he said "Those cases don't make us one bit safer.
"But he says what those cases do is cost taxpayers millions of dollars a year in police, jail, prosecution, and public defender costs. He says the costs of simple marijuana possession cases are far higher than the revence received from fines.
"Every year we arrest about 60,000 people in Texas for possession of tiny amounts of marijuana," said retired State District Judge John Delaney. "Issuing citations makes more sense. What's more, a marijuana conviction affects a person's ability to work and support a family for the rest of their life. No one wins, and we all lose."
Moody's bill would call for a traffic ticket for possession of less than one ounce of marijuana, with a civil fine, like a parking ticket, of no more than $250. There would be no arrest, no court appearence, no jail, as long as the person pays the ticket.
He stresses his bill does not remove arrest for somebody who is selling marijuana, providing it to minors, or driving while high on pot. Those offenses would still involve arrest and jail time.
Moody's bill has support from Republicans and Democrats, especially libertarian-leaning lawmakers.What it doesn't have is support from Gov. Abbott, who has said he will not sign any measure expanding marijuana use beyond the simply 'cannabis oil for seizure treatment' law now in place.