Marijuana Decriminalization; Legalization Bills Die in Texas

AUSTIN, TX — Two bills aimed at reforming marijuana laws in Texas have died in the legislature, when the deadline for advancing bills out of committee for consideration by the House passed last week.

Both bills, one that would have decriminalized marijuana possession and one that would have legalized marijuana for adults, were left pending in the House Calendar Committee when committee chair Todd Hunter (R-Corpus Christi) refused to schedule the bills for consideration by the full House.

House Bill 507, introduced by Rep. Joe Moody (D-El Paso), would have removed the threat of arrest, jail time, and a criminal record for possession of up to one ounce of marijuana and replace them with a civil fine of up to $250.  The bill had received initial approval in a 4-2 vote by the Texas House Committee on Criminal Jurisprudence.

House Bill 2165, introduced on Texas Independence Day in March by Rep. David Simpson (R-Longview), would have ended marijuana prohibition in Texas and allowed the plant to be regulated like tomatoes, jalapeños, coffee, or any other crop grown in the state.  A provision in the bill ensured that marijuana would still be illegal to consume for minors, except with parental supervision. The bill had received initial approval in a 5-2 vote by the Texas House Committee on Criminal Jurisprudence.

With other proposals to reform marijuana laws in Texas already defeated in committee, only one marijuana related proposal remains pending in the Texas legislature this year, House Bill 892/Senate Bill 339, which would create an extremely limited medical marijuana program that advocates say is unworkable.

That bill would only allow “low-THC cannabis” — which is defined in as containing less than .5% tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) by weight and over 10% cannabidiol (CBD) — but wording in the bill would most likely prevent the bill’s implementation. Most notably, the bill requires doctors to “prescribe” marijuana to patients, which is not allowed under current federal law and exposes doctors to federal criminal sanctions.  In other states that have implemented medical marijuana programs, doctors “recommend” medical marijuana to patients or “certify” patients to enroll in their states’ programs. Unlike “prescriptions,” recommendations and certifications are federally legal and protected under the First Amendment.

The clock is ticking on the legislative session, which ends on June 1.

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