Tags Posts tagged with "Texas"

Texas

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A bill can be killed in various ways especially ones dealing with legalizing marijuana for example obstruction, feet dragging, amendments, procedural snags or getting talked to death in a filibuster, just to give a few. In the case of Texas’ medical marijuana and decriminalization bills, even though each bill had enough support to pass, they never even came up for a vote before time ran out last Thursday night at midnight.

What Happened To The Bills On Marijuana Reform

A midnight deadline passed without the full House even taking up proposed House Bill 81 for consideration on marijuana reform. The bill would have essentially decriminalized the possession of small quantities of marijuana, lessening penalties to below that of most traffic tickets.

House Bill 2017, which would have legalized medical marijuana, met the same fate due to the House’s jam-packed calendar.
So now, both bills are dead in the water as stand-alone legislation.

However, the fact that they got as far as they did is historic for the marijuana industry in the state of texas and marijuana culture. Having made it out of committee, these two bills advanced further than any other high-profile marijuana-related bill in Texas by simply making it on to the calendar in the full House of Representatives.

State Reps. Joe Moody and Jason Isaac, lead sponsors of HB 81, had warned earlier in the week that it was unlikely the House would get to the decriminalization bill by the midnight deadline.

The legislators said they planned to look for ways in the final two weeks of the legislative session to resurrect it, such as by tacking it on as an amendment to another bill.

We can only hope the do because the next opportunity to pass this any type of bill dealing marijuana legislation won’t be until 2019—when the Texas legislature meets again.

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Texas is one step closer to eradicating the criminal penalties associated with minor marijuana possession. The House Criminal Jurisprudence Committee recently put its seal of approval on a proposal (House Bill 81) that would allow police all over the state to simply slap those people caught in possession of up to an ounce of weed with a small fine instead of dragging them to jail. The state currently deems this offense a Class B misdemeanor, which carries the potential for marijuana offenders to serve up to six months behind bars.

To ensure the proposal made its way through the first phase of the legislative process, Representative Joe Moody, who also Chairs the committee, was forced to amend the language in a manner that allows judges the right to hit habitual pot offenders with a Class C misdemeanor. Moody stated, “If you’re going to be a frequent customer, you will be moved into the criminal arena.” The proposal is now set to go before the Calendars Committee, which has the power to decide if the measure will get a fair shot in front of the full House.

The bad news is that one of the “No” votes came from Republican Todd Hunter, who just so happens to oversee the Calendars Committee. Therefore, it is distinctly possible that his prejudice toward the bill could stop it from being heard on the House floor altogether. However, marijuana advocates hope that Hunter will leave his personal opinions out of this debate and do the right thing.

Heather Fazio, a spokesperson for Texans for Responsible Marijuana Policy stated, “The state’s current policy of arresting and jailing people for simple marijuana possession is completely unwarranted. Law enforcement officials’ time and limited resources would be better spent addressing serious crimes. No one should be saddled with a lifelong criminal record simply for possessing a substance that is less harmful than alcohol.”

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Following the legalization of recreational marijuana in four states, there are at least eleven other states considering changing their policies this year.

1. Connecticut
Not only are lawmakers expecting to expand Connecticut’s five-year-old medical cannabis legislation, but Martin Looney, the state’s Democratic Senate President pro tem, introduced a bill recently that would legalize marijuana for recreational use.

2. Missouri
The Missouri Recreational Marijuana Legalization Initiative did not make the ballot in 2016, however the state did pass medical use. Missouri’s secretary of state, Jason Kander, has endorsed a petition behind the initiative pushing to legalize recreational use.

3. New Hampshire
Senate Minority Leader Jeff Woodburn said he would introduce recreational legislation this year, but first, a group of legislators introduced House Bill 215 on January 4, commissioning a study of the current cannabis laws in other states. Results of that research will be released on December 1, 2017.

4. New York
Governor Andrew Cuomo recently proposed a measure that would decriminalize cannabis, according to the Washington Times. In his 2017 legislative agenda, he wrote, “Data consistently show that recreational users of marijuana pose little to no threat to public safety.”

5. Rhode Island
For seven years, Rhode Island lawmakers have introduced legislation that would allow the use of marijuana recreationally. It would impose a 23% tax.

6. South Carolina
South Carolina passed a bill in 2014 allowing cannabis oil for medical use, however lawmakers recently introduced the South Carolina Compassionate Care Act, which would legalize cannabis for terminally ill individuals, as well as people with “debilitating medical conditions.”

7. Tennessee
Two cities in Tennessee have already decriminalized marijuana; recently, Representative Jeremy Faison told The Marijuana Times that he wants full medical use across the state and plans to introduce a bill in the 2017 legislative session to legalize medicinal use.

8. Texas
On the first day of the 2017 legislative session, lawmakers in TX filed multiple requests to decriminalize cannabis. Instead of being thrown in jail, anyone caught with minor amounts of marijuana would be charged with a civil infraction and a $250 fine.

9. Utah
House Speaker Greg Hughes told the Deseret News that medical cannabis could be the biggest issue of the session. However, word on the street is that most legislators in Utah think it is smart to wait for the federal government to act.

10. Virginia
Governor Terry McAuliffe stated he wishes to legalize medical cannabis this year, and legislators in Virginia are following through. They filed a bill this month to decriminalize cannabis and only fine for possession.

11. Wisconsin
Medical cannabis is only legal for people suffering from seizures in Wisconsin, but lawmakers hope to expand the current law to make medicinal marijuana legal for all.

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Last week, the Drug Enforcement Administration decided not to reschedule marijuana. In response, cannabis reform activists, as well as state lawmakers in Texas, stated that they are focused on changing state cannabis policy in the next legislative session. The San Antonio Current reports that Heather Fazio, the Texas political director for the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP), stated that beginning in 2017, activists have two primary objectives: first to increase Texas’ very restrictive and inefficient medical cannabis program and second, to decriminalize the drug,

In 2015, Texas Governor Greg Abbott passed the Compassionate Use Act, which gives those who suffer from epilepsy the ability to obtain cannabis oil that is low in THC. But the wording of the act is wrong; it states that doctors need to “prescribe” medical marijuana instead of recommending it. Therefore, doctors are put at risk and can lose their license if they are found prescribing marijuana since it is still illegal under the federal government. The system as a whole is inefficient as a result. Fazio said in an interview that families have even decided to leave the state to find treatment in other states.

“There are families uprooting from Texas, where they want to live because they can’t treat their children here,” Fazio stated. “We think we can convince the Legislature that that shouldn’t be happening.”

Proponents and legislatures would also like to see the list of conditions that make one able to obtain medical marijuana increased. The conditions that have the most support to be added are both cancer and post-traumatic stress disorder.

“If we are compassionate about people with epilepsy, then we should be compassionate about people with cancer, and cataracts and glaucoma and veterans who are being put on all kinds of opioids,” said Democratic State Sen. Jose Menedez. “It is senseless to me that the State of Texas thinks it knows better than people’s doctors.”

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Although the Texas Legislature lacked the guts in 2015 to pass a comprehensive medical marijuana program that would have allowed patients from across the board to have access to an effective treatment option, state lawmakers did manage to put their seal of approval on a piece of flimsy legislation designed to eventually allow those suffering from epilepsy to get their hands on low-THC cannabis oil.

The state’s toe-in-the-water approach to medical marijuana was flawed in the way the law was written, which history has shown will inevitably cripple the program before it ever gets out of the gate.

Basically, before Governor Greg Abbott put his signature on the Compassionate Use Act, lawmakers failed to take into consideration that the language would force physicians across the state to break federal law by “Prescribing” cannabis oil rather than offering recommendations.

While this blunder in the law’s verbiage may sound like a small detail, it is actually kryptonite for those medical professionals not wishing to continue their career from inside a federal penitentiary.

The Controlled Substances Act strictly prohibits doctors from prescribing marijuana for medical use, but they have the right to recommend the herb to patients in states where it is legal, under protections established by the First Amendment.

In 1991, Louisiana legalized medical marijuana, but not a single patient was ever able to utilize the program – not a single gram of weed was ever dispersed – simply because the law was written using the word “Prescribe” rather suggesting some type of certification.

It wasn’t until last year, when Governor Bobby Jindal authorized a new medical marijuana program that, after more than two decades, patients with a handful of qualified conditions could finally begin looking forward to the prospect of using cannabis products.

Despite a similar scenario in Texas, a report from the San Antonio Express-News indicates that state officials are currently working to put the regulatory framework in place for their still born program in an effort to begin issuing licenses to those under the illusion that selling cannabis in the Lone Star state will be a lucrative business move.

From now until May, the Texas Department of Public Safety will be scouring the land for cannabis producers and dispensaries brave enough to supply the state with low-THC pot products that have no chance of being ever being sold to a single patient.

In states that have passed restrictive medical marijuana programs, where participating doctors are permitted to provide patient recommendations, we are seeing an industry that is being jammed up by the limits of the law, and in some cases dispensaries are being brought to the point of bankruptcy because there are not enough patients to sustain the marketplace.

Both Illinois and New York are currently facing low patient enrollment, and many physicians are simply opting out of the game for fear that they might somehow trigger an unsavory visit by the DEA. It stands to reason that Texas is already standing neck deep in failure due to the legislature’s inability to pass a functional law.

The state legislature does not convene again until 2017, which leaves the law in the mud for at least the next year. Advocates remain hopeful that the Compassionate Use Act will be changed next year.

“We are optimistic that we’ll be able to amend the language to correct this flaw in the law,” Heather Fazio with the Marijuana Policy Project told HIGH TIMES.

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Nearly 30 South Plains residents gathered in Lubbock Sunday, seeking political coaching as they prepared to rally for changes to Texas’ marijuana policy.

They attendees requested this training from Texans for Responsible Marijuana Policy, a statewide coalition who provide training on messaging and how to win over the ears of public officials.

“Way too much money and way too many lives are being impacted by our current marijuana policy [in Texas],” said Heather Fazio, at the event.

Fazio is the Texas political director for the Marijuana Policy Project, she helped lead the training session in Lubbock. Fazio is helping to train aspiring activists in Lubbock to defy some of the stereotypes around marijuana policy.

“We’re working with a broad coalition in Texans for Responsible Marijuana Policy, that’s comprised of organizations that span the political spectrum, this isn’t just stoners and hippies and liberals anymore, these are conservatives that want to be involved in this issue, that want to see more limited government and to see accountability,” Fazio explained.

” marijuana, it’s something that’s not going to happen in Texas anytime soon,” Frullo said.

” Frullo is referring to a bill proposed by a state panel that aimed to legalize recreational marijuana use in Texas in 2015.

“I’m not for doing anything to legalize marijuana,” Frullo added.

” Frullo is concerned that changing marijuana policy could make the substance more accessible, leading users to other drugs.

He welcomes feedback from people like the marijuana policy activists in Lubbock, but can’t picture his fellow representatives voting to decriminalize marijuana anytime soon.

A Petersburg, TX resident who attended the training said that he believes West Texans seeking marijuana policy change haven’t been vocal enough with their state representatives.

“People living in small communities, you have people who don’t get to get out and we have home-bound individuals, where the possibility of medical marijuana could really improve their quality of life and even get them back into the workforce,” McKennon said.

McKennon explained that he doesn’t use marijuana, but he believes that for some of his friends and neighbors, medicinal marijuana would improve their quality of life.

Fazio explained that in the last Texas legislative session, marijuana policy reform received more support than ever before, so she has high hopes for the upcoming session.

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Starting in 2016, officers in the United State’s fourth largest city will not be arresting citizens caught with small amounts of marijuana. Because of a new policy outlined by the Harris County District Attorney, authorities in Houston will simply cite and release anyone found with two ounces or less of marijuana. Those who are cited must go to a drug rehabilitation program, which is filled with class work and community service. When finishing the program, defendants will not need to face any other penalties; there will be no crimes charged and the person will not have a criminal record.

After one is caught with the marijuana a second time, though, one will not have such a luxury. However, Texas is gladly welcoming any sort of decriminalization. The state’s officers arrest almost 75,000 offenders for violating marijuana possession laws yearly, which is the second-highest number in the country. Under Texas’s laws, the possession of two ounces or less of marijuana is currently considered a criminal misdemeanor and can result in 180 days in jail, a $2,000 fine as well as a criminal record.

In 2007, lawmakers in Texas permitted police in local jurisdictions to cite instead of arresting small pot offenders. Even then, sundry police departments have decided to continue arresting these minor offenders rather than following the new law.

Houston is one of the most populated cities in the United States with 2.2 million people. Recently, officials in many other metropolitan areas (Milwaukee, Philadelphia, Miami-Dade and Broward counties in Florida) have issues respective ordinances that have resulted in less marijuana-related arrests.

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The docile border town of El Paso has allegedly become a trailblazer in the effort to amend marijuana laws in Texas.
In reference to the Guardian, El Paso proximity to Ciudad Juarez “the Mexican city so ravaged by drug cartel violence that until recently it was the murder capital of the world” has actually spawned various locals to get behind marijuana legalization.
“The believe the decades-long U.S. ‘War on Drugs’ has militarized the border and put ordinary people under constant surveillance, disrupting lives and fracturing communities without achieving results that justify the emotional, cultural and economic costs,” the Guardian reported.
With Border Patrol recovering almost 50,000 pounds of pot in El Paso area this past year, residents feel that legalizing marijuana would harm cartels revenue stream and, in turn can reduce their power. “The cartels are bigger and stronger than they’ve ever been and what have we really done that’s thwarted their efforts? Nothing,” Justin Underwood, an El Paso attorney, told the Guardian. “I am of the opinion that human beings are going to do drugs, period. Human beings are going to drink alcohol. I accept these things as facts and as long as you have a demand you will always have a supply, no matter what.”
“I don’t know that it would reduce crime in El Paso, which is already the safest city in America—but it would help to reduce cartel crime in Mexico,” U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke, explained.
“Today, Mexican cartels enjoy billions of dollars in profits from U.S. drug sales, profits that go to hire young men and women, to buy politicians, police and judges, and allow some to commit crime with impunity.”
Obviously, El Paso approaches an uphill fight in the conservative stat. Despite 11 marijuana-related bills that were introduced this year in Teas legislature, the only one to get a green light was a restrictive bill legalizing certain marijuana extracts to help treat severe seizures due to epilepsy.

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