The 2019 Legislative session for the state of Texas is about to start, and when it does, 12 bills among the pre-filed selections will focus on marijuana legalization for medical use. Of those bills, the two which hold primary focus are SB90 and HB209. SB90 would allow doctors to prescribe marijuana as they do any other drug useful for the treatment of an illness or for pain management assistance. Meanwhile, HB209 is related to the legalization of medical marijuana and the use of homegrown marijuana for medical treatments.
Texas remains one of the few holdout states when 33 others have legalized some form of marijuana. Federal law still categorizes the drug as a Schedule 1, but with the legalization of hemp with the 2018 Farm Bill, marijuana advocates are hopeful that the tides are changing related to federal classifications and related prohibition as well.
Various patients who live in Texas are hopeful that the bills will pass if only to allow them easier access to a drug treatment option that has proven very effective for issues from anxiety to chronic pain.
Efforts to legalize marijuana for medical treatment made a major step forward in 2015 when a bill sponsored by former nurse and State Rep. Stephanie Klick passed the House on a vote of 108-38. The bill permits products with high levels of CBD and low levels of THC to be used, primarily by residents who have epilepsy and are not responding to other legal forms of medical treatment.
Texas Cannabis Report
Texas legislators begin their 2019 legislative session on Tuesday this week with over a dozen cannabis-related bills having already been filed for consideration.
With eight pieces of legislation in the House, five in the Senate, and possibly more in the works, there will be no shortage of items to discuss before the session ends on May 27, 2019.
Topics include marijuana penalty reduction, changing how concentrated forms of cannabis are measured for legal charges, legalizing whole plant medical cannabis, affirmative court defenses for medical patients, hemp legalization, and adult consumption legalization.
Over the next 12 months, the state Department of Health and Senior Services has the job of implementing Amendment 2, which brought medical marijuana to the Show-Me State after a big win at the ballot box Nov. 6.
That work is already happening. On Monday, the department will start taking application fees for dispensary, manufacturing and cultivation licenses. It is to start taking completed applications in August, so licenses can be awarded later this year. The amendment requires that licenses go out no later than Dec. 31.
The goal is to set up a system of nearly 200 dispensaries, spread evenly through all parts of Missouri, that qualifying patients can use to access legal marijuana for health treatment.
If the number of Oregon-based companies hiring registered Missouri lobbyists since November is any guide, state-regulated medical cannabis promises to be a strong business opportunity here, as it has been elsewhere.
Meanwhile, lawmakers are slated to get back to work in Jefferson City on Jan. 9. During the off-session, legislators have been pre-filing bills on a long list of topics. Ten of them cover marijuana in some way, some more directly than others.
Here’s a roundup of those bills, recapped by the News-Leader from bill language posted online by the Missouri House and Senate. They’re listed in order of the date they were submitted, according to LegiScan and the legislature’s websites.
Lawmakers haven’t taken any action yet. These bills would need to be passed by majorities in both houses of the legislature, then signed by Gov. Mike Parson, to become law.
Two bills propose affirmative action for marijuana license applicants
Senate Bill 2: Requires the Department of Health and Senior Services to make certain considerations when granting medical marijuana licenses and certifications.
This bill was pre-filed Dec. 1 by Sen. Shalonn Curls, a Kansas City-area Democrat. It would require state government to give a 10-percent scoring bonus when evaluating marijuana license applications from companies owned by women or minorities. The Department of Health and Senior Services will begin evaluating applications for those potentially lucrative dispensaries, cultivation and manufacturing licenses beginning in August — eight months after it starts taking the application fees. Then, the state has until Dec. 31 to award licenses, per Amendment 2. This Senate bill also requires state government to “take into consideration” policies maintained by local governments that promote businesses owned by women and folks of minority backgrounds.
A similar bill, House Bill 440, was filed Jan. 3 by another Kansas City-area Democrat, Rep. Barbara Washington. Its text was not posted online as of Saturday afternoon.
Controlled substances including CBD, marijuana, opiates
Senate Bill 6: Modifies provisions relating to controlled substances, including the Schedules and criminal provisions involving controlled substances.
This bill was pre-filed Dec. 1 by Sen. David Sater, a Republican representing parts of Barry, Lawrence, McDonald, Stone, and Taney counties. It updates Missouri law regarding drugs placed on controlled-substance schedules. The schedules list opiates, “bath salts” and other drugs prohibited by law. The bill changes criminal penalties to include fentanyl. Part of the bill language relates to CBD products, should the federal government make more of them legal in the future. That’s significant because in June, the federal government approved a CBD drug for epilepsy for the first time. Meanwhile, the yearly farm bill signed by President Trump on Dec. 20 took hemp off the list of controlled substances.
Increased penalties for selling heroin
Senate Bill 93: Increases penalties for the distribution of heroin.
If this bill passes, it would increase penalties for selling heroin that are listed alongside penalties for illegal sales of marijuana and other substances. Street sales of 35 grams or more of marijuana outside of the Amendment 2 system will still carry significant criminal consequences. This bill was introduced by Sen. Scott Sifton, a Democrat from St. Louis County.
Legalizing marijuana, with limits
House Bill 157: Establishes provisions regarding the limited legalization of marijuana.
Three days before Amendment 2 took effect on Dec. 6, Rep. Brandon Ellington, a Kansas City-area Democrat, pre-filed a bill that would legalize marijuana for Missouri adults 21 and older. But like Amendment 2, HB 157 would come with some strings: Under this bill, adults could sell and transport up to two ounces of cannabis. They could have six plants per person, provided only three of the plants are mature, flowering ones. The plants would have to stay in the “interior” of a residence; you wouldn’t be able to grow them outdoors on the family farm.
The bill prohibits the sale of marijuana plants, along with driving under the influence of marijuana, and it allows landlords to prohibit marijuana-growing on their property. It also allows employers to restrict marijuana use among employees and forbid weed in the workplace. It prohibits government from denying any service or program to someone due to marijuana activity that this bill would make legal.
Prohibiting Missouri from sharing medical marijuana registry with feds
House Bill 238: Prevents the state government from sharing medical marijuana user or registry info with the federal government.
Introduced Dec. 13 by Rep. Nick Schroer, a St. Charles County Republican, this bill is short. Privacy advocates and libertarians might find it sweet, too.
“Notwithstanding any other provision of law to the contrary, no state agency shall disclose to the federal government the statewide list of persons who have obtained a medical marijuana card,” the bill states.
It contains just one more sentence, making any violation of the proposed law a Class E felony.
Expunging marijuana offenses
House Bill 292: Requires the court to expunge certain marijuana offenses.
Introduced Dec. 18 by Washington, the Kansas City-area Democrat, this bill would require Missouri courts to expunge marijuana possession convictions — for 35 grams or less — provided the convictions came after Dec. 31, 1997 and before Aug. 28, 2019. After Aug. 29, possession for convictions would be expunged on the date of the conviction.
Expunging marijuana offenses for people who have patient cards
House Bill 341: Allows certain marijuana-related offenses and violations to be expunged if the offenses or violations occurred in Missouri prior to the issuance of a patient identification card.
Introduced the day after HB 292, this bill from Rep. Ron Hicks, a St. Charles County Republican, would expunge marijuana misdemeanors from the records of those with medical cannabis patient cards, so long as the misdemeanor was entered before the patient was approved for the card. The bill allows for just one expungement per cardholder.