Earlier this week, the Texas Legislature adjourned after its 140-day legislative session. This year's session brought successes and setbacks. Prohibitionists went to great lengths to keep the status quo and some of their reefer madness unfortunately worked.
Industrial Hemp Legalization – HB 1325 legalizes industrial hemp in Texas and establishes a regulatory structure so that Texans may soon start growing hemp.
Limited Low-THC Medical Cannabis Expansion – HB 3703 removes the two-physician requirement for a medical marijuana card and expands the qualifying conditions to include: epilepsy, seizure disorders, multiple sclerosis, spasticity, ALS, autism, terminal cancer, and incurable neurodegenerative diseases. It does not change the 0.5% THC cap. HB 3703 is currently on Gov. Greg Abbott's desk.
What Fell Short:
Marijuana Decriminalization – HB 63, which would have replaced possible jail time with a fine, passed in the Texas House but stalled in the Texas Senate after Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick made it his mission to kill the bill.
Comprehensive Medical Marijuana Expansion – HB 1365 would have expanded qualifying conditions for medical marijuana, increased the number of dispensaries, and established a research review board that could allow different amounts of cannabinoids. This bill passed in the Texas House but did not receive a hearing in the Senate.
Unfortunately, the Texas Legislature won't be back in session until 2021. That means two more years of patients suffering and needless arrests. We want to congratulate everyone who worked so hard to make progress, including Texans for Responsible Marijuana Policy.
Support for marijuana reform is at an all-time high so let's keep our chins up and keep pushing. Together, we can change marijuana laws in Texas.
Yesterday, the Texas House of Representatives passed HB 63, a bill that would stop arresting and jailing individuals who possess up to an ounce of cannabis. The bill now heads to the Texas Senate for a vote. Already, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick tweeted that HB 63 is “dead” in the Texas Senate.
While the bill removes the threat of jail time, we are disappointed that the fine was raised to $500 on the House floor yesterday. Such a steep fine will disproportionately effect Texans with lesser means. The Senate should lower the fine or allow community service in lieu of a fine.
Please contact your senator today, and let’s send the bill to Gov. Greg Abbott’s desk!
After passing in a 5-2 vote in the House Jurisprudence Committee, HB 63 is scheduled for a vote in the Texas House of Representatives this Thursday. Please contact your lawmakers in support of marijuana decriminalization right now.
If HB 63 passes, possession of one ounce or less of marijuana would be punishable by a $250 fine for the first two offenses, and it would be considered a class C misdemeanor for subsequent offenses. Currently, possessing any amount of marijuana is punishable by jail time in Texas.
Given that the Texas Republican Party endorsed marijuana decriminalization and Gov. Gregg Abbott has expressed willingness to sign a bill that reduces penalties for possession, the environment has never been better for change in Texas.
So please, contact your lawmakers today and then forward this email to friends and family and ask they do the same. Together, we can reform marijuana laws in Texas.
A bill to stop arresting and jailing marijuana consumers in Texas cleared an important hurdle yesterday, when it passed the House Criminal Jurisprudence Committee. But it has a long way to go before it becomes law.
Currently, possession of two ounces or less is a misdemeanor that carries a penalty of a fine of up to $2,000 and up to 180 days in jail. HB 63 would make the penalty for possessing one ounce or less a fine of $250. This would apply to an individual's first two offenses; after the second offense, it would be a class C misdemeanor, which carries a fine with no jail time.
Texas is punishing adults for using a substance that is safer than alcohol and it's costing the state millions in tax dollars and ruining thousands of Texans' lives. In 2017 alone, there were more than 64,000 arrests for marijuana possession in Texas.
Please ask your lawmakers to support decriminalizing marijuana today. Together, we can bring sensible marijuana policies to Texas.
Texas' short legislative session has begun, and over a dozen bills have already been filed to change the state's marijuana policies. A lot of progress has been made since the last time the Texas Legislature was in session, and now is the time to reach out to your lawmakers.
For added impact, talk to your lawmakers in person. Our allies at Texans for Responsible Marijuana Policy will be holding a lobby day on Thursday, February 7. The day will start with a legislative advocacy training and then teams will break off to reach out to their specific lawmakers. The two big priorities for this session are decriminalizing possession of small amounts of marijuana and expanding access to medical marijuana.
So please, do your best to make it to Austin next Thursday, and be sure bring friends and family. Whether or not you can make it, please use our action form to send a quick email to ask your lawmakers to replace arrests and jail time with a modest fine for marijuana possession. Or, you can ask them to support comprehensive medical cannabis legislation.
Texans for Responsible Marijuana Policy’s coalition partners surveyed state and federal candidates and provided their unedited responses. They also included voting records from the last two legislative sessions for state-level incumbents.
Early Voting: October 22 – November 2, 2018
Election Day: November 6, 2018
For more information on where, how, and when to vote, visit VoteTexas.Gov.
Unfortunately, Texas doesn’t allow voters to collect petitions to put initiatives on the ballot. Only state lawmakers can initiate changes to the state’s marijuana policies. Who gets elected in November will be key to deciding when and if Texas enacts a medical cannabis law and stops criminalizing cannabis consumers.
So, please get educated and get voting!
Many thanks to Heather Fazio of Texans for Responsible Marijuana Policy, Texas NORML, and everyone else who worked on the voter guide!
Marijuana policy reform is on the move in Texas thanks to advocates throughout the state. Trained individuals sharing their experiences with lawmakers have brought about unprecedented progress at the Texas Capitol. Let’s keep up the momentum!
Texans for Responsible Marijuana Policy and MPP are hosting a series of events throughout the state to empower individuals who want to effectively advocate for sensible marijuana policies in Texas. We’ll be visiting a city near you — register now to secure your seat.
These hands-on workshops will provide an opportunity to:
- review the political process and learn how you fit in;
- identify effective arguments for discussing marijuana law reform; and
- craft your personal message to lawmakers.
Once you’ve registered, please share this email with others who are interested in advancing liberty by reforming Texas’ unreasonable marijuana laws. You can also follow the workshop series’ live updates on our event page.
On Friday, Dallas — Texas’ third largest city — implemented a policy that instructs police officers to issue citations and a summons to appear in court, rather than arresting those found in possession of marijuana. This new policy will spare people an initial trip to jail, which is a step in the right direction. However, individuals still face all the same criminal penalties, including up to six months in jail, up to $2,000 in fines, and a lasting criminal record.
In Texas, a criminal record carries the following collateral consequences:
-Hindered access to employment
-Diminished educational opportunities
-Impeded housing options
-Jeopardized parental rights
-Suspended drivers license (six months)
-Obstructed right to self defense/ license to carry (five years)
To see meaningful changes to marijuana laws in Texas, we must change the unreasonable statewide policies that allow for such harsh penalties.
If you are a Texas resident, please contact your legislators now in support of more reasonable penalties for marijuana possession.
As MPP's role in national and state marijuana policy reform efforts continues to grow and evolve, our leadership structure must also evolve. As such, MPP founder Rob Kampia is stepping down as executive director and will be assuming a new role in the organization.
We would like to thank Rob for his leadership and his continued work to end marijuana prohibition. Rob released the following statement:
I am excited to announce that I will be transitioning to the new position of director of strategic development with the Marijuana Policy Project.
Matthew Schweich, who joined MPP as the director of state campaigns in early 2015, will serve as interim executive director as the organization searches for a permanent executive director.
Back in 1993, I moved to D.C. three days after graduating from Penn State for the sole purpose of legalizing marijuana. Fully 19 years later, in 2012, MPP stunned the world by legalizing marijuana in Colorado, and in the four years since then, MPP legalized marijuana in four more states, being responsible overall for five of the eight states’ legalization laws.
When I co-founded MPP in 1995, medical marijuana was illegal in all 50 states, and it had been a decade since a good marijuana bill was even pending in Congress. Since 1995, MPP has passed half of the 29 states’ medical marijuana laws, and MPP was the lead organization that successfully lobbied Congress in 2014 to block the Justice Department from interfering with those state laws, and that amendment from Congressman Dana Rohrabacher is still the law nationwide.
I’m looking forward to spending more time on Capitol Hill to help craft and pass the best possible legalization law nationally. I also want to focus on legalizing marijuana in three of the 10 most populous states – Texas, New York, and Michigan.
Just yesterday, our Michigan campaign submitted a sufficient number of signatures to that state government, virtually guaranteeing that Michigan will be the only state to vote in November 2018 on a statewide ballot measure to legalize marijuana.
I'm honored to have served as executive director, I'm excited the board chose the person I nominated to serve as interim executive director, and I'm energized to help identify a new executive director to finish the job of ending marijuana prohibition in the U.S.
Although the Texas legislature does not reconvene until 2019, marijuana policy reform is on its agenda in the interim! Yesterday, Speaker of the House Joe Straus announced “interim changes” that committees will look into between legislative sessions — including by holding hearings and reporting back — and one of them is marijuana policy.
The House Criminal Justice Committee, led by Chairman Joe Moody (D-El Paso), will "study current practices for the enforcement of criminal laws against low-level possession of marijuana” and “examine the use of alternative punishments and improvements to criminal enforcement mechanisms and community supervision."
The subject is familiar to both Chairman Moody and his fellow committee members. Earlier this year, the committee heard testimony on and ultimately passed House Bill 81, Chairman Moody's proposal to replace criminal penalties with a simple citation/ fine for low-level marijuana possession. The bill died after it did not receive a floor vote.
Please stay tuned for opportunities to be part of this important conversation between legislative sessions, during which time an estimated 120,000 Texans will be arrested for marijuana possession.
If you are a Texas resident, please contact your legislators today in support of more sensible marijuana policies for Texas!