By Max Bibeau | TEXAS
The extremely conservative state of Texas has recently taken surprising steps towards accepting cannabis, through decriminalization and medical efforts. While the state will not be joining the eight other states that have legalized recreational marijuana, much progress was made towards decriminalization in the 2017 session.
One of the most tangible steps forward in 2017 has been a “cite and release” program in Dallas. The Dallas City Council voted on April 12th to give offenders caught with less than four ounces of marijuana a ticket ordering them to appear in court instead of being arrested. Supporters of the policy claim it is a “major step in eliminating the number of black, brown and working class people from being branded as a criminal for the rest of their life and from clogging up the prison system.” The policy will begin to be enforced on October 1st, 2017.
Another significant progression was House Bill 81, which would decriminalize possession of less than one ounce of marijuana. The bill would make the consequences for minor possession similar to a traffic ticket. The bill, authored by Democrat Joe Moody from El Paso, ended up with 41 bipartisan co-authors and passed the Criminal Jurisprudence Committee in a 4-2 vote. The bill was scheduled to be voted on by the Texas House Calendars Committee. A floor vote never happened, however, due to the stalling of dozens of bills by the Texas Freedom Caucus before a deadline. While the bill didn’t make it to a floor vote, it’s strong bipartisan support proves that Texas legislators are becoming more open to decriminalization or legalization.
Finally, a medical marijuana bill made progress in 2017 as well. Republican Jason Isaac and Democrat Eddie Lucio authored and pushed for House Bill 2107, which would have allowed marijuana to be prescribed to patients by doctors. The bill focused heavily on veterans, who often use cannabis to treat PTSD symptoms. The bill, backed by 72 co-authors, made it out of committee but was never scheduled for a vote. Isaac and Lucio promised to continue pushing for the bill, fighting for “patients suffering in Texas who could benefit from medical cannabis.”
While progress does seem to be being made in the House, Texas Governor Greg Abbott’s stance has been made clear. In an interview with KHUE 11 News, Press Secretary John Wittman said, bluntly, “Governor Abbott opposes the legalization of marijuana in the State of Texas.”