Advocates gearing up for 2019 legislative session; governor open to reform
Last update: November 13, 2018
The Texas Legislature only meets for its regular session every two years, which limits opportunities to improve marijuana laws. The 2019 session starts on January 8, and advocates and allied lawmakers are gearing up to push for more humane, fiscally sound marijuana laws.
The Lone Star State is increasingly an outlier with its outdated marijuana laws. Since its legislature last met in 2017, voters in Utah, Oklahoma, and Missouri enacted medical cannabis laws, as did lawmakers in West Virginia. The total number of compassionate states is now at 32. Let your lawmakers to know you don’t want them to miss the opportunity this year.
Meanwhile, another state’s voters — Michigan’s — legalized and regulated marijuana for adults’ use on Election Day 2018. Yet, Texas continues to penalize simple possession of marijuana with up to 180 days in jail. Encouragingly, Gov. Abbott recently signaled his openness to reducing penalties to a fine.
Meanwhile, Joe Moody has pre-filed HB 63, which would reduce the punishment for possession of marijuana to a civil penalty. Ask your legislators to support his sensible bill, which would free up law enforcement to focus on serious crime.
Please also check out our coalition partners at Texans for Responsible Marijuana Policy, who are leading the charge for both medical cannabis and civil penalties.
Texas launches low-THC medical marijuana program, but few can participate
In early 2018, the first sales of low-THC medical cannabis began in Texas, pursuant to the Compassionate Use Program. While the program is surely helping some patients, it is flawed, extremely limited, and leaves most patients behind.
Only patients who suffer from serious seizure conditions may participate, leaving behind a huge number of Texans who suffer from other conditions, including cancer and PTSD, and many who will otherwise have to rely on opioid-based medicine.
The law also unnecessarily puts physicians at risk: State law requires physicians to write prescriptions for marijuana products, yet prescriptions for cannabis are clearly illegal under federal law, placing doctors at potential risk.
Finally, the state approved only three companies to operate medical cannabis businesses in the entire state. Each serves as cultivator, processor, and dispensary for those patients in Texas who qualify.
In past years, lawmakers have proposed comprehensive programs, but none have passed.
Let’s make 2019 different. Since Texas’ last legislative session in 2017, 57% of voters in neighboring Oklahoma approved a broad medical cannabis law, and thousands of patients have already registered there. Meanwhile, the Texas Republican Party’s platform now includes support for both medical cannabis and decriminalization.
Contact your legislators
Decriminalization: Let your lawmakers know it’s time to stop criminalizing marijuana consumers: Ask them to support changing the penalty for possession from possible jail time to a civil fine.
Please also subscribe to our free email alerts to stay up to date on the status of marijuana policy reform in Texas.