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Texas Lawmakers Approve Marijuana Decriminalization Bill

Texas would become the 25th state in the U.S. to remove the threat of being jailed as a punishment for possessing small amounts of marijuana under a bill approved by the state House of Representatives on Monday.

The legislation, which would punish people caught with an ounce or less of cannabis with a $500 fine instead of arrest and incarceration, passed by a vote of 98 to 43.

Rep. Joseph Moody (D), the chief sponsor, amended the bill on the floor in order to win more support from colleagues. An earlier version included a lower fine—$250—and would have treated low-level possession as a civil infraction instead of a class C misdemeanor as is the case under the revised proposal.

But its broad effects remain the same: No arrest or incarceration for people caught with small amounts of marijuana.

They will also avoid long-term criminal records as long as they follow terms of deferral assigned by judges, such as doing community service or completing drug education classes. The provisions, which individuals can take advantage of as much as once a year, also apply to possession of paraphernalia.

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