Kimberly Vardeman

Pressure Grows to Reform Texas Cannabis Laws

Texas is in the minority of states that haven’t passed major cannabis reform legislation, but mounting pressure from both within and outside the state could result in significant progress on that front in 2019.

Full story after the jump.

Texas is one of the last U.S. bastions of outright cannabis prohibition, but pressure is mounting from citizens and lawmakers alike to bring progressive reforms to the Lone Star State’s cannabis laws, The Houston Chronicle reports.

Cannabis remains heavily restricted in Texas. Currently, the state’s only reforms are incredibly strict, allowing only for CBD-rich oils that are prescribed for epilepsy patients who have been failed by other, traditional treatments. There is not a comprehensive medical cannabis program and even minor possession remains a class B misdemeanor punishable by a six-month jail term and up to $2,000 in fines.

“Even in Texas, public opinion seems to have shifted from criminalization to at least decriminalization, with strengthening support for legalization. … All in all, Texans of all stripes may be closer than ever to move toward legalization, especially as everyone around them is going along with this major change.” Nora Demleitner, professor at Washington and Lee University School of Law in Virginia, via The Houston Chronicle

Meanwhile, lawmakers have already filed or pre-filed a dozen bills relating to cannabis reforms, including a full decriminalization bill in November by state Rep. Joe Moody (D).

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R), meanwhile, said he would support decriminalizing cannabis by reducing the charges for possession of small quantities of the plant from a class B to a class C misdemeanor, which would carry no threat of jail time and a maximum fine of $500.

In July, the Republican Party of Texas updated its platform to include planks for the decriminalization of cannabis, rescheduling the plant to Schedule II under the federal Controlled Substances Act (CSA), and the statewide legalization of industrial hemp.

Note: hemp was officially removed from the CSA earlier this month with the successful passage of the 2018 Farm Bill.

The Texas GOP also endorsed expanding the state’s limited medical cannabis law to allow for a more comprehensive program, but no further progress was made during the close out of 2018.

On Texas’ southern border, Mexico has also taken huge strides in the fight for cannabis freedom, with adult-use legislation expected to come in 2019.

There are currently 10 states with adult-use legalization on the books, and 33 states with rules to allow for the medicinal use of cannabis.

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