By DeVaughn Douglas
While there has been a flurry of bills brought forth in favor relaxing penalties for cannabis possession here in Texas the end goal of full legalization still faces an uphill battle. The Texas legislative session is ending and with it also the possibility of House Bill 1535 moving towards becoming law. The bill, put forth by representative Stephanie Klick of Forth Worth, would expand the medical cannabis program here in the state of Texas to include people with chronic pain, all cancer patients, and people suffering from PTSD. Currently the law in Texas allows for up to .5% tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) allowing for products containing CBD to be sold over the counter. The bill currently presented would increase the allowable cap from .5% to 5%. As with other states, the pathway to marijuana legalization passes through medical marijuana bills reducing penalties eventually leading to the drug’s prohibition being completely taken off the table.
While that first bill works its way through legislation there are other prominent bills that are showing the tide is changing for cannabis here in Texas. The Texas Senate committee also advanced an approved a proposal to decriminalize the possession of small amounts of cannabis with house bill 2593. The bill reduces the penalty of possessing up to an ounce of marijuana to a class C misdemeanor with no possibility of jail time.
These bills also come on the heels of legislation put forth by Representative Alex Dominguez for the research of psychedelics. The House Public Health Committee passed the bill with amendments with members limiting the scope of the state-funded study to just military veterans suffering from PTSD. Before the amendments, the bill applied to a larger list of conditions and ailments. This bill would make it a requirement for the state to study the benefits and risks of psilocybin, MDMA and ketamine for veterans.
While these bills are a promising start getting them past some of the Texas politicians that are against legalization will take effort. Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick has hindered efforts for cannabis reform in the state and there appears to me no real evidence that his feelings on the movement have progressed. This is not to say that all hope is lost. A sudden change of heart is not uncommon for politicians when money is on the table and the cannabis industry in the United States is primed to be a very lucrative market. A 2021 survey from the University of Texas and the Texas Tribune found that sixty percent of state voters are in favor of making cannabis legal, a number that has significantly risen from forty two percent in 2010. While Gov Patrick’s office has consistently released statements about listening to constituents and health issues the office has also been noticeably clear about not weakening current laws. Spokespeople from the office have been quoted saying Patrick is “strongly opposed to weakening any laws against marijuana” and “we’re not going to turn this into California where anybody can get a slip from the doctor and go down to some retail store [to purchase marijuana].”
The general public has taken a much more positive view of marijuana legalization over the past 20 years, and it will take that general public making their positions well known to their representatives if there is any hope of reform happening.