Texas House OKs removing jail time for small amounts of pot

April 29, 2019 GMT

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — Having small amounts of marijuana in Texas would mean a fine and no jail time under a bill advancing in the Republican-controlled Legislature.

The bill that passed the Texas House by a 98-43 vote Monday is a milestone in Texas, where GOP leaders have been resistant to relaxing marijuana laws. It would lower criminal penalties for possession of an ounce or less of marijuana to a Class C misdemeanor.

Lawmakers say it would help save resources for law enforcement and keep low-level offenders out of the criminal justice system.

Democrat Rep. Joe Moody changed his original bill that would have decriminalized possession of small amounts of pot. Republican Gov. Greg Abbott signaled support last year for reducing penalties to a lower misdemeanor offense but stopped short of publicly endorsing decriminalization.