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Marijuana Decriminalization in Texas

In December of 2014, Rep. Joe Moody (D-El Paso) introduced HB 507, which aimed at decriminalizing marijuana in Texas. Under Moody’s proposal, Texans would receive a $250 civil fine for possessing a small amount of marijuana rather than facing up to 6 months in jail and up to a $2,000 fine.

This bill was supported by members of Texans for Responsible Marijuana Policy, and if passed, would allow individuals with an ounce or less of marijuana to avoid an arrest and possible jail sentence.

Another bill, House Bill 2165, introduced in March by Rep. David Simpson (R-Longview), would have put an end to marijuana prohibition in Texas and allowed the plant to be regulated like any other crop grown in Texas.

Unfortunately, both bills died in the legislature last week when the deadline for advancing bills to the House for consideration passed. Committee Chair Todd Hunter (R-Corpus Christi) was not willing to schedule the bills for consideration by the full House, in effect leaving the bills pending in the House Calendar Committee.

While these two proposals for marijuana reform have been defeated in committee, one proposal remains, and it is House Bill 892/Senate Bill 339, which would enact a medical marijuana program with extreme limits – a program which advocates say is impractical.

Under that bill, the state would only allow “low-THC cannabis,” which contains less than .5% tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and over 10% cannabidiol (CBD). Under the bill, physicians would be required to prescribe marijuana to patients, which under current federal law is not allowed; therefore, it would subject doctors to federal criminal sanctions.

In states that have implanted medical marijuana laws, doctors either “recommend” medical marijuana to patients or they “certify” them so they can enroll in their states’ programs. Unlike a “prescription,” a certification or a recommendation is legal under federal law and protected under the First Amendment.

The legislative session ends on June 1st, so we’ll have to wait and see what happens.

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