Texas is the biggest state that has yet to fully legalize the use of marijuana, and the Lone Star State is making up for lost time. Last week, the Texas House of Representatives passed a bill that, if signed into law, would legalize recreational pot in 2018. Here’s why a full legal marijuana market there, with all the other benefits associated with a functioning legal market, is going to be huge.
The state of Texas has been sort of known for its crazy laws on marijuana. It was the first state to legalize medical marijuana in the United States, and its medical marijuana program is still among the most rigorous in the country. But in spite of Texas’ reputation for weed-friendly laws, time and time again Texans are getting stoned on the wrong kind of bud. In the past, it’s a local city council allowing their local dispensary to sell weed, then a change of heart and a threat of a lawsuit, followed by an increase in other cities allowing dispensaries to open shop. And after all that, on my way home from work this week, I passed a man smoking a joint on the street. I thought to myself, “What isTexas and cannabis have had an uneasy relationship. For years, Texas has been one of the main routes through which old-school reggae, also known as brick-grass, crosses the border between Mexico and the United States. Maybe that’s what left such a pungent cannabis taste in the mouths of law enforcement officers in the state. Texas is the second largest state in America and the second most populous. There are approximately 29 million people living in Texas in 2019, and that number is growing rapidly. Texas is known for doing things big. The city is famous for the Alamo, the SXSW music festival, some of the best barbecue in the country, warm weather, and is also known as the live music capital of the world. What Texas is not known for is cannabis. The state of Texas has the potential to grow enough cannabis to supply the entire United States if the federal government ever relaxes its draconian stance on cannabis prohibition and removes it from the Class 1 drug list. If cannabis were allowed to be transported across state lines, the problems of supply and demand would be easier to solve.
Medicinal cannabis is legal in Texas with restrictions.
After the slow progress of cannabis legalization in the state of Texas, the scales seem to have tipped in the plant’s favor. In 2015, Texas passed a medical cannabis law called the Compassionate Use Act. He approved the use of low-THC cannabis products for Texas patients with intractable epilepsy. The act was updated in 2019 with HB 3703. HB 3703 was officially passed on June 14, 2019, and expanded the compassionate use program to include epileptic seizures, spasticity, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, terminal cancer, multiple sclerosis, autism, and untreatable neurodegenerative diseases. When they talk about low THC products, that’s exactly what they mean. Under Chapter 169 of the Texas Occupations Code, licensed physicians may prescribe low-THC cannabis to certain patients with untreatable neurogenic conditions. Low-THC cannabis is defined as a cannabis plant or a derivative thereof containing less than 0.5% by weight of tetrahydrocannabinol. This is a 0.2% difference from the definition of cannabis in HB 1325, which defines cannabis as cannabis plants and derivatives containing less than 0.3% tetrahydrocannabinol.
Further progress on cannabis legalization could be on the horizon in Texas
The Marijuana Policy Project was founded several years ago in the state of Texas and seeks to legalize cannabis in that state. Thanks to the diligent efforts of cannabis advocates and activists, as well as MPP, Texans have seen the improvement of positive cannabis reforms.
- HB 1535 – Adds new requirements to the list of eligibility requirements for medical cannabis use in Texas.
Latest news: HB 1535 has been advanced. This bill would add post-traumatic stress disorder to the list of eligible conditions in the state of Texas. While this is an improvement, it still leaves out many people who could use medical cannabis in the state. In the original reading of HB 1535, the definition of PTSD applied only to veterans. Second reading removed the requirement that only veterans must apply, allowing anyone with PTSD to apply. But that’s not all! This bill would also add chronic pain and all forms of cancer to the list of requirements and raise the THC limit to 5%.
- HB 441 – Reducing the penalty for possession of cannabis in Texas.
House Bill 441 would lower the penalty for possessing one ounce or less of cannabis from a Class B misdemeanor to a Class C misdemeanor. The difference is that the Class B misdemeanor carries a $2,000 fine and up to 180 days in jail, while the Class C misdemeanor carries no jail time. Bill 441 would also prevent law enforcement officers from making an arrest for possession of less than an ounce of cannabis.
- HB 99 – Reducing the number of arrests and driver’s license revocations for cannabis-related charges.
Bill 99 came out of committee. This bill would prevent arrest and revocation of driver’s licenses for possession of cannabis and replace jail time with fines. The author of Bill 99, Representative Steve Toth, does not support legalizing or decriminalizing cannabis, but recognizes the need to address racial disparities related to cannabis arrests.
Would there be more changes in Texas?
If passed, the current bills in the state of Texas will expand the medical program and open the possibility of legal access for many more Texans. The next hurdle for these bills will be passage through the Senate. As we all know, the Senate is the place where bills go down the drain in recent days. Will Texas Governor Greg Abbott step forward and allow Texas to enter the legal cannabis industry soon? Or is it time to change tack and see what potential Governor Matthew McConaughey can do for cannabis reform? Either way, we hope the state of Texas realizes that the failing policies of the current cannabis laws need to be changed. The draconian past of Prohibition was built on racism and a false foundation. Today, anyone can read or read about it online. For some reason, our elected officials have trouble finding the same information we do. There is no doubt that these laws passed in the past should be a thing of the past. When I see elected officials in the United States of America supporting this draconian mindset, it shows me that they have a personal agenda that does not match the agenda of the American people today. Ashley Priest is a patient, mother, entrepreneur and activist fighting for the abolition of drug prohibition around the world, for a better future for all. Ashley is passionate about sharing knowledge about the divine plant that is cannabis. She believes that one seed can make all the difference and that together, through education, we can end the stigma that prevents cannabis from reaching its full potential worldwide.