Texas pot smokers may skip jail if new bill passes

State lawmakers considering reducing marijuana penalties

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AUSTIN - Pot smokers in Texas may not have to worry about serving time in jail if House Bill 184 gets passed.

The House Committee on Criminal Jurisprudence will hold a hearing Tuesday on the bill that would reduce the penalty for possession of small amounts of marijuana.

Under H.B. 184 (see the bill), sponsored by State Rep. Harold V. Dutton Jr. (D-Houston), individuals found in possession of up to one ounce of marijuana would be charged with a Class C misdemeanor punishable by a fine of $500 and no possibility of jail time. Currently, possession of up to two ounces of marijuana is a Class B misdemeanor punishable by up to $2,000 in fines, 180 days in jail, and the suspension of the individual's driver's license.

Rob Kampia, executive director of the Marijuana Policy Project, will be testifying at the hearing. He has testified before legislative committees in California, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Nevada, Ohio, Vermont, Washington state, and the U.S. House of Representatives.

Kampia, a former Austin resident, served three months in prison for growing his own marijuana for personal use while he was a student at Penn State University; he was elected student body president two years later.