Texas Lawmakers Approve Cannabis Decriminalization Bill
The House Criminal Jurisprudence Committee of Texas approved a bill for the decriminalization of cannabis possession in Texas on Friday, April 9th. The body also approved a separate proposal to reduce penalties for the possession of cannabis concentrates.
In recent weeks, Texas lawmakers have been considering a variety of marijuana reform proposals, with the most recent developments marking significant progress on the path towards decriminalization in the state. Under the bill, HB 441, possession of up to an ounce of marijuana would be classified as a Class C misdemeanor with no threat of jail time. It would also protect those charged from loss of a driver’s license or creation of a criminal record.
Texas Cannabis Decriminalization Bills Moving at “Record Speed”
Director of Texans for Responsible Marijuana Policy Heather Fazio believes that there is good reason to be optimistic about HB 441’s passing through upcoming committee votes. “Marijuana bills are moving through the committee process at records speeds this session,” she told Marijuana Moment.
The House Public Health Committee also unanimously approved legislation on April 8th that would significantly expand the state’s existing medical marijuana program to include cancer, chronic pain, and post-traumatic stress disorder for veterans to the list of qualifying conditions to receive cannabis-derived treatment for their ailments.
Recent Developments Indicate Shift in Policy
Historically, the Texas legislature has been resistant to cannabis reform. However, with cannabis reform bills advancing left and right, advocates believe that this session may be different.
A leading reason for this shift might be that citizen attitudes surrounding full-scale legalization of marijuana has significantly changed in the last decade, with 60% of state voters now backing the legalization of marijuana “for any use.” For context, just 42% of voters backed that ideology in 2010. Federally, most Americans favor cannabis legalization.
All that said, Lt. Gov Dan Patrick (R), who presides over the Texas Senate chamber, has consistently killed prior efforts to enact reform in the state. Whether or not advocates will be able to implement the far-reaching effects of cannabis reform that they hope for remains to be seen.