There is a growing belief locally, statewide and nationally that Texas will soon join the 16 states that have legalized recreational marijuana. State Representative Roland Gutierrez has introduced a bill that would do the same here, and if that measure isn’t adopted, Dallas-based Rep. Jessica González has filed a bill that would allow Texas counties and cities to legalize recreational cannabis on their own.
State Sen. Jose Menedez and Rep. Ron Reynolds have also submitted bills to the state legislature to expand the use of medical marijuana.
Dallas police proposal
One of the most interesting ideas for change is from Dallas Police Chief Eddie, who recently proposed to the City Council Public Safety Committee that Dallas police officers would no longer arrest or cite most people found in possession of less than two ounces of marijuana.
According to DPD, marijuana possession arrests are still a regular part of local law enforcement efforts. In the first three weeks of February, 7 percent of all arrests were for marijuana possession. Of the 1,996 arrests from Feb. 1 to Feb. 24 of this year, 183 were for marijuana possession – and 140 of those were for possession of less than two ounces.
DPD says its proposal would reduce the amount of time city officers spend making arrests and issuing citations for those deemed to be in possession for personal use.
Exceptions to the proposed change
The proposal also outlines four scenarios in which a person with less than two ounces of cannabis would be charged with a possession crime:
- If officers believe the possession indicates the marijuana is part of a distribution effort.
- There are digital scales or packages of empty baggies present.
- The person is observed distributing marijuana.
- If the person is also in possession of a firearm.
It is not clear how Gov. Greg Abbott, state Attorney General Ken Paxton or the state legislature would respond if the Dallas City Council adopted the DPD’s proposal.
How things stand today
What is crystal clear today, however, is that Texas takes marijuana possession seriously. A conviction for possession of less than two ounces can still result in a sentence of 180 days in jail and a fine of up to $2,000. Possession of between 2 oz. and 4 oz. can mean up to a year in jail and a fine of up to $4,000.
While both of those are misdemeanors, possession of from 4 oz. to up to 5 pounds is a felony that can mean a sentence of from 180 days (the mandatory minimum) to 2 years and a fine of up to $10,000. The penalty for possession of from 50 lb. to 2,000 lb. can be up to 20 years in a state prison, while those convicted of being in possession of more than 2,000 lb. can be sentenced to up to 99 years behind bars.