HOUSTON – There are no less than 20 bills up for consideration regarding marijuana this legislative session in Texas but don’t bet the farm that any of them will become law.
While both Democratic and Republican lawmakers have expressed interest in decriminalizing marijuana, which is often considered an early step in full legalization, John Baucum, legislative director for Republicans against Marijuana Prohibition, believes it is not enough to move the needle on the issue. He said he believes that without the governor and lieutenant governor on board, marijuana legalization in Texas is destined for failure.
“If you’re going to have success in Texas, it has to go through the GOP,” Baucum said.
In 2019, a marijuana decriminalization bill that passed in the State House failed to emerge from committee in the Senate.
“Criminal Justice Chair John Whitmire is right that HB63 is dead in the Texas Senate,” Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick tweeted at the time. “I join with those House Republicans who oppose this step toward the legalization of marijuana.”
Texas says ‘no’ to $555 million in additional annual tax revenue
For many Texans, the legalization of recreational drugs remains a moral issue, but the economic boost is harder to argue.
A Colorado-based law firm studied the issue and found that if Texas legalized and taxed marijuana sales like Colorado, it would provide a $555 million boost to state coffers in additional tax revenue, and that number almost doubles if the tax structure mirrors Washington state’s model. See the study for yourself by clicking here.
“I think this is a place where the public’s input really, really will affect future policy,” said state Rep. Gene Wu, a Democrat who represents the Houston area. “If people, especially voters, go and tell the governor and lieutenant governor: ‘Hey! This is something we want. This is something that 70% of Texans want,’ I think they’ll change their mind.”
Wu is among a group of lawmakers introducing legislation this session that would lessen the penalties for personal consumption marijuana possession. You can read Wu’s legislation by clicking here.
Medical marijuana program in Texas
The State of Texas, in recent years, has gradually loosened restrictions and expanded legal applications for marijuana to treat certain medical conditions.
In 2015, the Texas Legislature passed a marijuana “Compassionate Use” law that allows doctor-prescribed low-THC-level marijuana to epilepsy patients.
The program was further expanded in 2019 to include treatment for more ailments including other seizure disorders, multiple sclerosis, spasticity, ALS, autism, terminal cancer, and other non-specified incurable neurodegenerative diseases.
There are more bills up for consideration this legislative session that would further expand marijuana treatment options.
HB43, for example, removes both the low-THC requirement and leaves doctors to decide which ailments should be treated with marijuana. You can see it by clicking here.