Across the state and nation, starting with prosecution policy changes in cities like Houston and Dallas, small steps are being made to ease Texas’ notoriously strict stance on marijuana possession.
In Washington, U.S. Congressman Beto O’Rourke (D-El Paso) recently introduced an amendment ending the practice of automatically suspending the driver’s licenses for those with marijuana convictions.
His amendment would defund Section 159 of U.S. Code Title 23, which decreases highway funding for states if they did not automatically suspend drivers licenses of drug offense culprits.
Under the proposed change, states would still be able to enforce the policy of suspension, but wouldn’t be penalized if they chose not to.
The House completed passage of its appropriations bills last week; the Senate will now take its turn at making changes to the revenue designations made in the lower chamber.
In April, O’Rourke also introduced the Better Drive Act, which removes the federal mandate for suspending the driver’s license of someone with a specific marijuana conviction.
Additionally, according to mysanantonio.com, Bexar County adopted a program taking a more lenient stance on some marijuana offenses, as well as other misdemeanors.
Under its program, instead of being jailed, those convicted of minor marijuana-related offenses would be given the opportunity to pay a fine and take a class, as well as put in community service time.
Qualifying offenses include:
- Class A and Class B possession of marijuana
- Class B criminal mischief
- Class B theft
- Class B theft of service
- Class B driving with an invalid license
Violators would still be required to appear in court, similar to a traffic ticket, and either a monthly or bi-monthly court date will be established for people with low-level offenses to appear before a judge.
The class accused individuals must take will be different depending on the crime, and, if they finish everything – class, fine and community service – within a 90-day time frame, a case will not be filed against the otherwise potential criminal.
According to District Attorney Nico LaHood, Bexar County will implement the program for six months to a year to see what adjustments need to be made.
“Let me emphasize, this program is designed with the intention of balancing community safety, fiscal responsibility for the taxpayers and opportunities for citizens of Bexar County,” LaHood said in a statement regarding the program.