HB 441: Marijuana Penalty Reduction | TxMJPolicy

Bipartisan Proposal: Penalty Reduction for Low-Level Marijuana Possession

House Bill 441 has been approved by the Texas House of Representatives and will soon be considered by the Senate!

The bill has bipartisan support and will reduce penalties for marijuana possession (1oz. or less). HB 441 eliminates the threat of arrest and jail time and establishes an opportunity for deferral, dismissal, and non-disclosure. 

ACTION: Contact your senator in support of marijuana penalty reduction!

Joint Authors:

Representative Erin Zwiener (D)
Chairman James White (R) | Chairwoman Nicole Collier (D)
Chairman Harold Dutton (D) | Representative Steve Toth (R)

Policy Overview:

  • Possession of an ounce or less of marijuana would be a Class C Misdemeanor, punishable by a fine of $500, but no arrest or jail time.
  • Upon payment of fine and plea of no contentre (or guilty), a case will be automatically deferred once a year, allowing the individual to avoid a criminal record if the judge’s orders are followed.
  • Dismissed cases would not generate a criminal record, which can follow a person for life and jeopardize employment prospects, housing, and educational opportunities. No automatic driver’s license suspension.
  • The bill would not legalize or even decriminalize marijuana — it would simply change the penalty. 

Criminal Penalties for Marijuana Possession Are Unreasonable

“I don’t want to see our jails stock piled with people who have possession of small amounts of marijuana.” – Governor Greg Abbott, 9/28/18

Texans overwhelmingly support reducing penalties

According to a 2021 report by the University of Houston’s Hobby School of Public Affairs, 77% of voters in Texas support a change in the law to limit punishment for the possession of small amounts of marijuana to
a fine of $250 without jail time.

Other states have successfully eliminated jail time for simple possession

● Twenty-seven states and the District of Columbia have decriminalized small amounts of marijuana. This generally means certain small, personal-consumption amounts are a civil or local infraction, not a state crime (or are a lowest possible misdemeanor, no possibility of jail time).

● Many of those laws have been on the books since the 1970s. They have been so non-controversial that several have been expanded.

Save tax-funded resources for serious crime

● Even after the legalization of hemp and with diversion programs in every major metro area of the state, DPS reports more than 45,000 arrests or citations for marijuana possession in 2019.

● During the same year, 92% of all burglaries — including home invasions — and 89% of all motor vehicle thefts went unsolved by law enforcement.

● Money spent enforcing current laws and arresting, jailing, and supervising people should instead be devoted to pursuing serious criminals.

Harsh penalties are unpopular, costly, and unfair

● A person found in possession of up to two ounces of marijuana faces up to six months in jail and a fine of up to $2,000.

● Racial disparity in marijuana law enforcement is alarming. Black Texans are 2.6 times more likely to be arrested, even though whites consume marijuana at about the same rate.

● A drug conviction for marijuana creates a permanent criminal record, carrying significant and lasting
collateral consequences.

Texas should eliminate collateral consequences of a criminal record

● Indirect consequences for possession can be worse than the punishment and can last a lifetime. Young adults can find careers, new job prospects, housing options, and educational opportunities cut short
because of a criminal record.

● More than half of the U.S. population has tried marijuana, including several who have gone on to become President of the United States. Those who get caught, however, can have their lives derailed
after getting a criminal record.

● Criminal records for simple marijuana possession has a significant effect on our economy by limiting
our workforce.

Marijuana is safer than alcohol; possession should not be criminalized in Texas

● Marijuana is less toxic, less addictive, and less harmful to the body. It does not contribute to violent and reckless behavior. Responsible adults should not be criminalized or incarcerated for choosing to
consume the safer substance.

● According to the DEA, “No deaths from overdose of marijuana have been reported.”