The latest prospects for marijuana reform in Texas: Both major parties pushing for changes at Capitol

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Lawmakers have filed 13 bills related to marijuana policy so far this session, with Gov. Greg Abbott signaling he is on board with reducing penalties for possession of small amounts of pot.

Many states have approved the use of marijuana for both medical and recreational purposes. To date, the only major piece of legislation in Texas is the use of low-THC oil for children suffering from intractable epilepsy.

The Texas Department of Public Safety has approved 40 doctors from three clinics for the prescription of low-THC cannabis. The three companies providing low-THC cannabis in Texas are Cansortium Texas, based in Schulenberg; Compassionate Cultivation in Manchaca, just south of Austin; and Surterra Wellness in Austin.

The Texas chapter of National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws hosted an advocacy training day on Saturday with Texans for Responsible Marijuana Policy and Republicans Against Marijuana Prohibition. John Baucum, who directs Republicans Against Marijuana Prohibition, has been instrumental in adding marijuana to the Republican platform.

“Make sure you’re making your case articulately and competently,” Baucum told the room of about 60 people interested in the topic. “That really goes back to knowing your issue and knowing your facts. You don’t want to be caught off guard by some rebuttal.”

Marijuana advocates go into the 2019 session with planks in both the Republican and Democratic party platforms. The Republican Party Platform calls for improvements to the 2015 Compassionate Use Act to give doctors more latitude in prescribing cannabis. The Democratic platform urged the immediate legalization of medical cannabis.

The first marijuana laws were passed in California in 1996. To date 33 states and the District of Columbia have approved the medical use of cannabis. Texas falls into the list of states that have approved low-THC/CBD oil programs and marijuana advocates support the regulation of CBD oil in Texas.

Twenty states, plus the District of Columbia, have decriminalized possession of small amounts of marijuana. Abbott has said he would support reducing penalties on low-level marijuana possession, saying he saw no logic to stockpiling Texas jails with people whose only infraction was possessing small amounts of marijuana.

Colorado’s total marijuana sales in 2017 totaled $1.5 billion, according to figures from the National Conference of State Legislatures. That produced $250 million in taxes, licenses and fees. Alaska, Oregon and Washington also are developing infrastructure to collect taxes and fees.

 

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