Bill Could Reduce Punishment

Jim Finnel

Fallen Cannabis Warrior & Ex News Moderator
The penalty for possession of small amounts of marijuana could be reduced if a bill in the Texas House of Representatives is passed.

House Bill 758, introduced in January by State Rep. Harold Dutton, D-Houston, is currently being reviewed by the Committee on Criminal Jurisprudence. The bill would reclassify possession of up to one ounce of marijuana from a Class B to a Class C misdemeanor.

Class C misdemeanor offenders do not receive jail time for a first offense, and instead would only be required to pay a fine.

The current law states possession of up to two ounces is considered a Class B misdemeanor, punishable by up to 180 days in jail and a maximum fine of $2,000.

"I feel the (current) penalty exceeds the crime," said Giancarlo Pearson, head of the Texas State chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws.

Pearson, Spanish senior, said he believes the bill could reduce the number of inmates in Texas' over-crowded prisons.

"I think it would reduce unnecessary incarceration in county jails," he said.

According to statistics released by the FBI in September 2006, approximately 88.5 percent of the nearly 800,000 marijuana related arrests in 2005 were for possession only.

Officer Otto Glenewinkel of the University Police Department said arrests for marijuana on campus are common.

"We see (marijuana violations) almost daily," Glenewinkel said.

He estimated as much as 75 percent of individuals arrested for marijuana violations at Texas State are in possession of an ounce or less.

He said it would be impossible for UPD officers to completely control marijuana use at Texas State.
"We can't devote 100 percent of our officers' time to drug violations," Glenewinkel said.

He predicted the passage of a bill reducing the penalty for minor marijuana offenses would not significantly increase the amount of marijuana use in Texas. He said he believes many are more concerned with the idea of breaking the law than with the actual penalties.

"You have people who use marijuana and people who don't," Glenewinkel said.

Despite this, he said he did not support the bill.

"I can't say what the ramifications would be – an ounce of marijuana can be quite a bit," Glenewinkel said. "(Legislators) don't know what they're getting themselves into."

He said an offender of a Class C misdemeanor – such as those found in possession of an ounce or less of marijuana under the proposed bill – is issued a citation and forced to sign a statement promising to appear in court.

This would be similar to what occurs with traffic violations now.

Glenewinkel said depending on the way the proposed law is worded, an officer would have the option of making an arrest, but this would not be mandatory. In most circumstances, the citation itself would be recognized as an arrest.

John Yum, communication design sophomore, recently had a friend arrested for possession of less than one ounce of marijuana.

"I think (the current laws) are too harsh," Yum said. "Texas should follow the lead of other states that have decriminalized marijuana."

He said he did not believe a change in marijuana laws reducing the penalty of small amounts would affect usage on campus.

"I don't think it would change that much – you could still get fined," Yum said.

News Moderator - User 420 MAGAZINE ® - Medical Marijuana Publication & Social Networking
Source: The University Star
Author: Jeffery D. Hooten
Contact: The University Star
Copyright: 2007 The University Star
Website: The University Star | Texas State University
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