Texas Republicans Now Support Cannabis Decriminalization

But roadblocks still exist from implementing legislation.

Texas Republicans Now Support Cannabis Decriminalization
Photos by rawpixel.com; rexmedlen via Pixabay

The state of Texas may be approaching an embrace of cannabis sooner than outsiders may think, and the push is coming from an unlikely source — Republicans. This past weekend ,the state’s Republican Party passed a platform that includes marijuana decriminalization and an expansion of the Compassionate Use Act, which legalized medical marijuana for patients with intractable epilepsy back in 2015. The party now urges the federal government to re-classify cannabis from a Schedule 1 Drug to a Schedule 2 Drug.

Here is what Texas Republicans support with regards to cannabis now:

  • Possession of an ounce of marijuana should be a civil instead of a criminal offense, with a possible $100 fine but no jail time.
  • The Texas Legislature should improve the 2015 Compassionate Use Act to “Allow doctors to determine the appropriate use of cannabis to certified patients.”
  • Congress should remove cannabis from the list of Schedule 1 and move to Schedule 2
  • Passing legislation that will allow the cultivation, manufacturing, and sale of industrial hemp and hemp products.

“What this demonstrates is that even the most conservative Texans among us are starting to look at new approaches to cannabis and starting to educate themselves about the fact that prohibition has failed,” Heather Fazio, coalition coordinator with Texans for Responsible Marijuana Policy, told the Dallas Observer. “This is a medicine for many people.”

While this dramatic shift in policy perhaps signals an end to prohibition as early as 2019 in Texas, key figures among Republican lawmakers might still represent significant roadblocks to widespread changes.

Just last year Harris County District Attorney Kimberly Ogg announced they’d no longer prosecute low-level marijuana possession charges. (Harris County covers most of the city of Houston.) Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick blasted Ogg for this decision, comparing it to making Houston a sanctuary city for low-level drug crimes. Patrick, who opposes cannabis legalization, can block any bill from receiving a floor vote in the upper Legislature as the President of the Senate.

Texas Democrats will hold their convention next week. The party’s current platform, as adopted in 2016, supports the immediate decriminalization of cannabis, the review of all cannabis-related incarcerations, expanding the Compassionate Use Act, and studying the cannabis laws of Washington, Oregon, and Colorado “as a first step in implementing a similar system in Texas.”

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