Texas Representative Joe Moody (D-El Paso) has filed a bill that would decrease the penalty for possession of one ounce or less of marijuana from a Class B misdemeanor to a civil offense.
Moody was surrounded by current and former law enforcement officers and judges Thursday as he laid out the details of House Bill 81.
It decreases the penalty for possession of an ounce or less of marijuana from a Class B misdemeanor to a civil offense punishable with a fine of up to $250.
Moody, a former prosecutor, said he wanted to reiterate his bill doesn't legalize marijuana. Instead, the intent is to save police officers time and save the courts money.
Each year, about 70,000 Texans are arrested for misdemeanor possession. Moody and officers said it takes officers two to three hours to detain suspects, which is time they're not on the streets, solving cases and deterring crime. And Texas spends about $734,000,000 a year putting people caught with small amounts of marijuana through the criminal justice system.
"No police officer or prosecutor anywhere in this state brags about the kid with a joint case. Because they don't, those cases don't make us any safer," said Moody. "They didn't get in law enforcement to work on those kinds of cases. In fact, using our resources for those cases make us less safe."
Moody said polls show both democrats and republicans support the idea of decreasing penalties.
Under the bill, police would still have the liberty to arrest people in possession of marijuana for driving under the influence, disorderly conduct and a number of other offenses.