Legislation in the Lone Star State is many things but swift to update Texas cannabis laws is not one of those descriptions. Widely pinpointed as the originating spot of cannabis prohibition in the United States, El Paso, Texas saw this movement begin in 1915 as a government-led exertion of social control over immigrant workers from Mexico, who had brought across the border the cultural practice of using cannabis as a medicine. Today, complete removal of prohibition is difficult, as the Texas Constitution doesn’t allow for voter referendum, AKA changes to the law must go through the legislative process. Senate leader and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick has regularly blocked bills attempting to expand medical cannabis and decriminalize possession, as he sees these as potential pathways to recreational legalization. Despite these efforts, some things are happening that are favorable to the industry for Texas cannabis legalization.
New Texas Cannabis Laws
Signed into law on June 15th by Governor Abbott, HB 1535 will go into effect on September 1, 2021; this important legislation expands medical conditions that allow for legal Texas cannabis use. Now, all those suffering PTSD and all forms of cancer may partake. Further, the amount of THC available in a single product has increased from less than 0.5% to 1%; this will reduce the amount of carrier oil needed in a tincture and increase the amount allowed in a single edible item. As the THC amounts were already being prescribed, the passage of this bill actually means less carrier oils will be needed for dosing. Consumption of flower products via smoking remains prohibited.
The following conditions will allow medical cannabis use in one month’s time:
(ii) a seizure disorder;
(iii) multiple sclerosis;
(v) amyotrophic lateral sclerosis;
(vii) [terminal] cancer; [or]
(viii) an incurable neurodegenerative disease;
(ix) post-traumatic stress disorder; or
(x) a medical condition approved for a research program under Subchapter F, Chapter 487, Health and Safety Code, and for which the patient is receiving treatment under that program.
In late May, the Texas Senate approved a bill to reduce penalties for possession of concentrates. This measure would downgrade possession of up to two ounces to a class B misdemeanor. Although approved, the bill cannot yet go to the governor’s desk for review because senator revisions mean it must first go back to its originating chamber.
As the group, Republicans Against Marijuana Prohibition (RAMP) continues to petition the Governor for cannabis reforms that benefit more Texans, a newly established progressive assembly called Ground Game Texas unveiled a campaign to put an initiative to decriminalize cannabis possession and ban no-knock warrants on the upcoming November ballot in Austin. Former Democratic congressional candidate Mike Siegel, founder of the organization, suggested recently that tapping into the popularity of marijuana reform at the local level could “unlock massive progressive victories” across the state in 2022. A strong majority of Texans support broad reform, according to polling completed in June. Sixty percent of voters in the state support making cannabis legal “for any use,” signaling local initiatives for more modest proposals like decriminalization will likely prevail where they qualify for local ballots.
Citizen Legalization Support
Citizens are showing their support for Texas legalization of cannabis outside of the polling numbers. In Fort Worth on July 24th, hundreds of people participated in a pro-pot reform rally, with a side of mild civil disobedience. The event was organized by the Fort Worth-Dallas chapter of NORML, the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws. “We have strong bipartisan support,” said Jax Finkle, executive director of Texas NORML, “but we have to apply pressure to the lieutenant governor and the Senate to help advance common-sense policies. They are cost-effective to the taxpayer, will meet the needs of medical patients, and will bring necessary reform to the criminal justice system.”
Shouts of “Let them out!” could be heard as the marchers passed by the Tarrant County Corrections Center, as well as “Legalize it now!” upon arrival at the steps of City Hall. Here, a rally and smoke session were conducted as police watched from across the street. No citations were issued; Fort Worth recently deprioritized arrests for low-level marijuana crimes.
While you’re waiting on Texas cannabis legalization and updates to Texas cannabis laws, there’s hope. Just across the northern Texas border, CannaCon will be hosting the nation’s leading business-to-business cannabis conference from March 31 to April 1, 2022. The event held in Oklahoma City is to educate cannabis business owners on all things related to cannabis and CBD, and therefore, expand the industry. The trade show features a large exhibition hall with exhibitors from around the country as well as seminars delivered by industry experts.