Texas Continues To Take Baby Steps Towards Legalization

The Texas Tribune reported on Monday that the House of Representatives approved a bill that would decriminalize possession of cannabis. Rep. Joseph Moody (D), the chief sponsor of the bill, still had to amend it in order to get the bill approved. His original version had a lower fine of $250 and it would have dropped down low-level possession to a civil infraction instead of a class C misdemeanor.

Still, the paper reported that the chances of the bill turning into law would be slim. “After the House grants final approval for the bill — usually just a formality — it will head to the Senate, where presiding officer Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick has expressed opposition to the idea of loosening marijuana possession penalties.” The resistance is attributed to the fear that each move to loosen cannabis laws is another step towards full legalization.

If Texas manages to pass the law, it would become the 25th state to decriminalize cannabis. “Texans have suffered under failing marijuana policies for far too long,” Heather Fazio, director of Texans for Responsible Marijuana Policy, said. “Rep. Moody’s bill will help preserve valuable public safety resources and keep a marijuana charge from derailing someone’s life. Like a majority of Texas voters, Democratic and Republican lawmakers agree that marijuana laws need to change.”

Medical marijuana is legal in the state but on a very restrictive level. There is only one approved condition, which is intractable epilepsy. Several pieces of legislation have been filed in order to expand the condition list.

Hemp Farming Legalized

Just last week, The Texas House approved a bill that would allow farmers in the state to legally grow industrial hemp. House Bill 1325 from state Rep. Tracy King, D-Batesville, would also legalize hemp and hemp-derived extracts like CBD oil as long as they contain no more than 0.3% THC. “HB 1325 is right-to-farm legislation that will allow Texas farmers the opportunity to cultivate a drought-resistant cash crop — that being hemp,” King told other House members.

The bill has now headed to the Senate for approval. Texas Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller is a strong supporter of industrial hemp production as a new market opportunity for Texas farmers to expand their operations and grow alternative crops.  Once authorized by the Legislature, TDA said it will create rules regarding licensing, production, testing, seed certification and other oversight as necessary.

“There’s no good reason for Texas farmers and ranchers not to have hemp as a crop option,” said Gene Hall, a spokesman for the Texas Farm Bureau. “I suspect a lot of farmers will choose this option once it’s available. It’s a drought-tolerant crop and can be grown anywhere where cropping is prevalent right now.”

 

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