Time to decriminalize marijuana in Texas, Baker Institute experts say

Experts at the Baker Institute in Houston are throwing their support behind a proposed bill that would make possession of small amounts of marijuana a civil violation, instead of criminal.

That means the penalty for possession of an ounce of pot or less would be like getting a traffic ticket and paying a maximum fine of $250. There would be no jail time or criminal record.

The main goal of decriminalization is to remove the permanent damage caused by an arrest and criminal record, and to use public resources more efficiently in the process, the experts explain in their report, “The Case for Marijuana Decriminalization.”

Since 1989, possession of less than 2 ounces of marijuana has been a Class B misdemeanor in Texas, with possible penalties of 180 days in state jail, a $2,000 fine and a criminal record.

Democrats and Republicans, including Gov. Greg Abbott, have expressed support for reducing penalties for marijuana possession.

As states continue to legalize marijuana for medical and adult sale and use, identifying the implications of these more substantial policy changes has become a more pressing issue, the authors said.