Donald Trump's nomination as president was the big story of the 2016 election. But there were other issues further down the ballot to vote on as well. The legalization of marijuana for recreational use passed in California, Massachusetts and Nevada, joining Alaska, Colorado, Oregon and Washington and Washington, DC. As a recent story by the New York Times pointed out, the population of adults in the U.S. who can legally use marijuana has now jumped from 5 percent to more than 20 percent. States where it was on the ballot but didn't pass were Maine and Arizona.
Texas doesn't look to join these states that legalized in the immediate future, but the shift by this latest group of states indicates a prevailing wind. A recent Gallop poll supports this theory by claiming that general support for legalization in the U.S. is now at 60 percent. This is up from 31 percent in 2000 and 12 percent in 1969. This momentum will likely put pressure on the federal government to make changes, but as of now marijuana is still illegal at a federal level.
According to the Marijuana Policy Project, things are starting to loosen up for marijuana users in the Lone Star State. There were five bills to change current marijuana laws, ranging from full legalization to reduced penalties for possession to the legalization of medical marijuana, with the latter Compassionate Use Program signed into law. Because of the limitations of this law, it will likely need to be altered for it to be workable with broad access by patients who are seriously ill. Some studies in Texas have those in favor of legalization of marijuana as high 80 percent with 68 percent supporting reduced penalties for small amounts in possession.
Rep. Joe Moody's bill HB 507 would have reduced criminal penalties for possession up on one ounce to a civil fine of $250, but it did not pass. This would have allowed individuals to avoid arrest, jail or even the stigma of being labeled a criminal. There are plans to try again in 2017, but until then people will still get busted for marijuana in Texas.
If you, a friend or a family member is arrested for marijuana possession, it would be a smart move to contact an attorney with experience in criminal law and drug possession. They will likely be helpful in getting the penalties and sentences reduced or perhaps even dismissed. Until marijuana is legalized in Texas, an attorney is your best bet.