Advocates prepare for Texas’ 2023 legislative session
Texas is one of only 19 states that still jails people for possession of small amounts of cannabis, and one of only 13 without a comprehensive medical cannabis law. It does, however, have a limited low-THC medical cannabis law that allows patients with certain debilitating medical conditions to access cannabis-based products with no more than 1% THC.
With no legislative session in 2022, statewide efforts are focusing on what can be accomplished in the 2023 session. We are working with allies to expand the medical program and to push for and decriminalization. Governor Greg Abbott (R) has expressed his willingness to explore both types of reforms. In past years, Lt. Governor Dan Patrick, who controls the agenda of the Senate, has been a roadblock to both decriminalization and to enacting a comprehensive medical cannabis program.
Voters are eager for reform: A recent poll shows 83% of Texans support medical cannabis and 60% support full legalization.
On the local level, Austin voters decriminalized personal possession of cannabis (and banned no-knock warrants) in a lopsided vote in May 2022. Several cities, including Denton, San Marcos, Killen, Harker Heights, Elgin, and Denton have submitted signatures to place similar measures on their ballots in November. Texas does not have a statewide ballot initiative process, but these local moves may help build momentum for statewide decriminalization in the Lone Star state.
This fall, voters will have an opportunity to decide who represents them in the capitol. On November 8, 2022, all 31 state senators and 150 state representatives will be on the ballot, as will the governor, lieutenant governor, and state attorney general. You can view your sample ballot here, and learn about candidates. You can register to vote here. Please vote and engage candidates for office on their stance on cannabis policy.
You can also reach out to your current lawmakers to voice your support for reform:
Gov. Abbott’s signs limited medical cannabis expansion bill into law
Texas’ 2021 legislative session adjourned on Monday, May 31, 2021. Although several cannabis reform bills were introduced this year, only one very modest reform — HB 1535 — was approved by the legislature. Gov. Greg Abbott (R) signed the bill into law. The new law will go into effect on September 1, 2021.
The bill will expand the state’s low-THC medical cannabis program to include people with cancer and PTSD. It will also modestly increase the current 0.5% THC cap on medical cannabis to 1%.
While HB 1535 is a modest improvement, there is still a great deal of work to be done to establish an effective medical cannabis program for patients across the Lone Star State.
Texas is currently one of only 13 states with no effective medical cannabis law, and one of only 19 that still impose jail time for simple possession of cannabis. Make sure your lawmakers know this issue matters to voters; ask them to support cannabis policy reform in the next legislative session!
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.
Initially, only patients who suffered from serious seizure conditions could participate, leaving behind a huge number of Texans who suffer from other conditions, including chronic pain, and many who will otherwise have to rely on opioid-based medicine. While the law was improved somewhat in 2019, when additional qualifying conditions were added, major flaws remain.
The law 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.
As noted, it is also limited to very low-THC cannabis.
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.
Texas’ 2021 legislative session adjourned on Monday, May 31. Although several cannabis reform bills were introduced this year, only one very modest reform — HB 1535 — was approved by the legislature. The bill now heads to Governor Greg Abbott’s desk for action.