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Texas Marijuana Law Maintains Criminal Charge, Offers Citations

A slew of new legislation was enacted at the beginning of the month in the Lone Star State. One of Texas’ more controversial new laws is one changing the policy for people caught with marijuana.

Prior to the new law, all marijuana possession-even of amounts less than four ounces-came with required jail time for those convicted. Now, police officers have the choice of simply issuing a citation, much like those sometimes issued for minor traffic violations (driving through a stop sign, speeding, jaywalking).

The policy change is meeting mixed reactions. According to the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP), this law will prove beneficial because it will decrease the “amount of time and resources needlessly spent when an officer must arrest and bring in low-level offenders” like first-time marijuana users.

Rather than filling out mountains of paperwork, officers can lend their attention to more threatening problems like violent crime. Supposedly, issuing citations should save both time and money.

Opposition from Police

But law enforcement officials are, for the most part, less than enthusiastic. According to MyWestTexas.com, sheriffs and officers alike are concerned with the implications, worrying that allowing marijuana users to get away with only a citation will cause marijuana use to be viewed as a “socially acceptable” crime.

Most officers are reluctant to put a narcotic offense in the same category as a speeding violation.

Though the law does not change the category of offense-possessing less than two ounces is a Class B misdemeanor; possession of two to four ounces is a Class A misdemeanor-it has sparked its fair share of controversy.” Some sheriffs are even insisting their employees ignore the new law.

The Plainview Daily Herald reports that officers are reluctant to exercise their new option because, when a citation is issued, the officer is not allowed to search the offender’s possessions without permission.” And these searches, it seems, frequently expose other contraband items.

Other laws

September 1st was the beginning of many new laws for Texas. More than 600 new or revised pieces of legislation went into effect at the beginning of the month. Some others include:

  • “Jessica’s law,” allowing prosecutors to seek the death penalty for repeat child sex offenders
  • “Lillian’s law,” increasing potential jail time for owners of biting dogs
  • “Katie’s law,” requiring drivers older than 79 to renew their licenses in person
  • Children’s health law, allotting more funds for state-funded health insurance for children
  • Senior Amber Alert, allowing the Amber Alert system to be used to find missing elderly people

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