Slowly and deliberately, Texans are increasing their attention to marijuana decriminalization. In November, five cities in the central Texas area will have decriminalization initiatives on the ballot. The state’s republican governor, Governor Greg Abbot, supports cannabis decriminalization despite being a conservative, and the capital city of Austin recently passed a decriminalization measure, Proposition A. A lobbying group in the state has found that policies built around workers, wages, and weed can motivate voters to support candidates previously thought to be too conservative for Texans. Fully 67 percent of Texans support the sale and use of recreational marijuana.
Texans are working with city-based initiatives because there is no process to put voter initiatives on a statewide ballot. The cities testing voter enthusiasm for marijuana decriminalization include Denton, Killeen, Elgin, San Marcos, Austin, and Harker Heights.
In Texas, the penalty for a misdemeanor marijuana possession of 2 ounces or less is 180 days imprisonment and a fine not to exceed $2,000, according to Texas state law. For 2 to 4 ounces, the penalty is up to one-year imprisonment and a fine not to exceed $4,000.
Each initiative is somewhat unique in its approach to decriminalization. Harker Heights’ initiative states that the police may not issue citations for Class A or Class B misdemeanor possession of marijuana. Harker Heights police may not issue misdemeanor citations for residue or paraphernalia. Police may issue citations for possession in cases where the cops are investigating a major felony or felony-level narcotics offense designated a high priority investigation by a top police official.
San Marcos officials submitted more than enough signatures to put marijuana decriminalization on the ballot in November. Both Denton and Elgin have enough signatures, also.
Austin was an interesting case because they added initiatives to the decriminalization effort that does not allow the police to request, execute, or participate in a no-knock search warrant. If the police violate this rule, they may be subject to discipline. This can be traced to the controversial confrontations between the cops and protestors during the George Floyd protests.
Local officials can enact the proposals in each city instead of putting them on the ballot.
There is a strong sentiment to move away from cannabis criminalization. Eighteen states have legalized recreational marijuana with no significant problems. What’s more, the tax revenue from medical and recreational marijuana can be considerable. California collects almost $1 billion per year. Texas is the second-biggest state by population, so we will likely see tax revenue like that when recreational cannabis is legalized and taxed. People familiar with smoking cannabis know the effects are mostly mild and temporary. That kind of revenue can be used for schools, infrastructure, and other programs that never seem to get enough revenue from income and property taxes. This may be why most Texans, including a majority of Republicans, want to see broad reform of the state’s marijuana possession laws. Cannabis cannot generate marijuana tax revenue unless it is effectively legal throughout the state.
Last year’s legislative session saw a bill to expand the state’s medical cannabis program and an effort to study the potential for research into certain psychedelics for military veterans. Over 60 percent of Texas voters support legal cannabis for any use or application.
The state’s one big success has been approving the sale and use of CBD products in 2019 with less than 0.3 percent CBD. The pandemic increased the popularity of CBD and the establishment of hundreds of businesses, including growers, refiners, packagers, and retail businesses related to CBD. Hometown Hero is an Austin-based company that develops and sells CBD products and sells in many other markets through direct online sales. Still, they say that Texas customers are 46 percent of their market, and 60 percent of their sales are for Delta-8 CBD, a less-potent form of CBD. However, the Department of States Health Services (DSHS) has decided that even .3 percent CBD violated the law in Texas and tried to take it off the market. Hometown Hero is one of many companies that sued DSHS to get a temporary injunction that allowed them to keep selling their products in the state.
Medical marijuana in Texas was updated on September 2021. The law greatly expanded the medical conditions that marijuana could be prescribed for, including PTSD and all forms of cancer. The law also allows for 1 percent concentration, up from .5 percent. Effectively this provides for more medicine in a single dose in an edible.
Here are several new illnesses that medical marijuana can be used to treat, including:
- a seizure disorder
- multiple sclerosis
- amyotrophic lateral sclerosis
- terminal cancer
- an incurable neurodegenerative disease
- post-traumatic stress disorder
- 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
A lobbying group, Republicans Against Marijuana Prohibition (RAMP), regularly petitions the governor regarding marijuana reforms that benefit more Texans. Several progressive organizations insist that recreational marijuana laws will significantly increase the number of progressive voters in the November 2022 election. Fort Worth had a massive rally where people openly smoked cannabis, and smokers chanted “Let them out!” and “Legalize it now!”
Texas has some of the strictest laws for possession anywhere in the country. Use, possession, sale, distribution, growing, and cultivation are illegal. Penalties for possession are some of the harshest in the U.S. However, some major cities like Dallas, El Paso, and Plano have reduced legal penalties for marijuana, effectively decriminalizing simple possession and use. El Paso was the first city in Texas to criminalize possession due to the number of Mexican immigrants who crossed the border with marijuana they brought to use as medicine. The state made cannabis illegal in 1931.