Bills Softening Penalties for Marijuana Introduced in Texas

Yahoo Contributor Network

Deep red state Texas may seem to be an unlikely place for steps toward decriminalizing marijuana, but according to, two bills have been introduced in the Texas Legislature that would do just that.

Medical marijuana defense

State Rep. Elliott Naishtat, D-Austin, has introduced HB 594, a bill that would establish a legal defense for possession of marijuana, according to It does not go as far as medical marijuana laws in other states, such as California, that allows for licensed medical marijuana dispensaries. However it does provide a legal defense based on medical necessity. If a defendant can prove that he or she is using marijuana to treat a medical condition, such as glaucoma or the nausea brought on by chemotherapy, then a judge can dismiss the case.

Decreasing the penalty for marijuana possession

State Rep. Harold Dutton, Jr., D-Houston, has introduced a bill that would decrease possession of marijuana from a Class B misdemeanor to a Class C misdemeanor, according to This would have the effect of decreasing the penalty for possession of marijuana from 180 days in jail and a $2,000 fine to a $500 fine and no jail time.

The medical marijuana debate

According to the ProCon page on medical marijuana, proponents of allowing the use of marijuana to treat conditions such as cancer, AIDS, multiple sclerosis, pain, glaucoma, and epilepsy cite a number of studies, including peer-reviewed scientific journals and government reports, that suggest that marijuana is safe and effective. The proponents also suggest that marijuana has been used medicinally throughout world history.

Opponents counter that marijuana is too dangerous, is addictive, and lacks FDA approval. They argue that other drugs work just as or more effectively than marijuana. They suggest that marijuana is a "gateway drug" that leads to the abuse of more dangerous drugs. Finally, they argue that medical marijuana is just a dodge for recreational use.

Medical marijuana laws

According to the Marijuana Policy Project, 18 states and the District of Columbia allow the use of medical marijuana. They generally require a doctor's permission and do not allow use in public. They allow some kind of acquisition method, either through home cultivation or through licensed dispensaries. In addition Maryland has a law similar to the one that is being proposed for Texas that removes criminal penalties for possession of marijuana for medicinal purposes, but does not allow for a means of access. Also, as ABC News reported, Washington state and Colorado have recently legalized marijuana for recreational use. Possession and distribution of marijuana is still illegal by federal law.

Texas resident Mark Whittington writes about state issues for the Yahoo! Contributor Network.

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