Although Texas marijuana reform advocates had high hopes of seeing at least one measure dealt with this year in the halls of legislature, it seems that lawmakers are still hell bent on sandbagging the issue.
There were a number of marijuana bills introduced this year, including one aimed at expanding the state’s non-functional low-THC medical marijuana program and another seeking to decriminalize marijuana possession. Both could have had a significant impact on communities in terms of redirecting law enforcement resources to more serious crime, while also stimulating the economic pulse of the second largest state in the nation.
At bare minimum, lawmakers wanted to remedy a language error tucked inside the state’s cannabis oil program that forces doctors to “prescribe” medical marijuana rather than offer “recommendations.” Since federal law prohibits physicians from prescribing a Schedule I controlled substance, it was absolutely crucial for lawmakers to correct this problem during the 2017 session.
But the bill never even got a chance to be heard on the House floor.
“We are going to see a lot more families leave the state of Texas over the next 18 months with children who have neurological disorders,” Representative Jason Isaac, one of the bill’s co-sponsors, told the San Antonio Express- News. “They will move to other states where they can get treatment.”
But the Compassionate Use Act is too restrictive anyway, as it only technically allows a small group of patients to gain access. Lawmakers argued during the session that the program should be opened up to more serious conditions, like AIDS and cancer, but that push did not manage to gain any traction either. So, while Texas might be one of those states with a medical marijuana program on the books, not a single patient will be able to track down a doctor to “prescribe” cannabis oil until the language of the law is corrected.
Efforts to eliminate the criminal penalties associated with marijuana possession also resulted in a miserable failure this year. The bill, which was introduced by Representative Joe Moody, would have simply allowed small time pot possession to be handled with a $250 fine instead of jail. The proposal was set to go before the House for a vote, but time ran out on the session before lawmakers ever had a chance to give the measure any consideration.
According to Representative Isaac, lawmakers continue to drag their feet on all marijuana-related measures because they are concerned that every step they take is one step closer to full legalization.
Sadly, all of this inaction will keep Texas out of the marijuana reform game for sometime. Since the state legislature operates under the biennial system, lawmakers will not gather again until the beginning of 2019.