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Texas Gov. Wants to Reduce Cannabis Penalties

Texas Governor Greg Abbott announced last Friday that he is in favor of reducing cannabis possession penalties throughout the state, the Texas Observer reports.

In a debate for the upcoming gubernatorial elections, Gov. Abbott proposed reducing the maximum punishment for possessing less than two ounces of cannabis from 180 days in jail and a maximum $2,000 fine to no jail time and a maximum fine of $500.

Specifically, he suggested speaking with the legislature about “reducing the penalty … from a Class B misdemeanor to a Class C misdemeanor.”

The governor’s statement was prompted by a caller who posed a question about cannabis reforms during last week’s gubernatorial debate. Gov. Abbott’s opponent, Democratic candidate and former Dallas County Sheriff Lupe Valdez, said she was in favor of legalizing medical cannabis and letting citizens vote to decide on the issue of adult-use cannabis.

Gov. Abbott has been seen as a major obstacle to cannabis reforms in the Lone Star State for a long time. Advocates say that, while the apparent ideological shift is an important development for the longtime Republican, it would do little to prevent the serious consequences that follow a cannabis possession conviction.

“Setting aside the details of what the governor said, the fact that he’s moving on this is itself huge. But that still wouldn’t remove all the collateral consequences for possessing a plant that many other states have decriminalized.” — Heather Fazio, Coalition Coordinator for Texans for Responsible Marijuana Policy, via The Texas Observer

What I would be open to talking to the legislature about would be reducing the penalty for possession of two ounces or less from a Class B misdemeanor to a Class C misdemeanor.

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