Time has run out for marijuana-related bills

Originally posted by Ashley Paredez on May 10 2017 for Fox 7 Austin here

This legislative session, Texas discussed marijuana-reform more than ever. But, two bills that garnered a lot of support aren’t likely to pass in time.

Time has run out for House Bill 2107, the medical marijuana bill. By tomorrow that could also be the case for House Bill 81, marijuana decriminalization.

As the clock winds down for this legislative session, so do the passage of bills. Regardless, we did see big steps toward marijuana reform.

“We saw medical marijuana voted out of committee. We saw decriminalization placed on a House calendar. These things inside the building are major milestones and we’re going to get there,” says Rep. Joe Moody, (D) El Paso.

House Bill 81 was introduced by Representative Joe Moody of El Paso. It would remove the current criminal penalties for possession of small amounts of marijuana and replace them with a civil citation and a fine. Monday was the last day House bills could be heard and voted out of committee. HB 81 made it out and was placed on a House calendar. Thursday is another key deadline, the last day representatives can vote to pass a House bill. It’s not likely they will get to the decriminalization bill in time.

“This is an enormous waste of our resources: our law enforcement resources, our court resources, our jail resources… for low-level offenders, they’re mostly young people. They’re mostly non-violent, not getting in trouble for other things. So why are we doing this to 60,000 Texans every single year?” says Rep. Moody.

There are still a few weeks left in the session. Representative Moody says there are ways to amend other bills and look for different ways to promote the policy. His office is considering all opportunities.

On to the medical marijuana bill, co-authored by Representative Jason Isaac of Dripping Springs. It would have expanded the Compassionate Use Act, which legalized oils containing CBD for treatment of intractable epilepsy. They wanted that to also include those who have autism or other severe neurological disorders. As of Tuesday, that bill is essentially dead.

“Waiting until next session is heartbreaking. It’s absolutely crushing, especially because I received a message just a couple of days ago when we still had hope that 2107 was still alive. It was from a family that was pushing for us and praying for us because their daughter had a seizure, fallen and hit her head and died. They felt like if she had options available she would still be here today,” says Representative Jason Isaac, (R) Dripping Springs.

Representative Isaac says he will continue to educate across the state of Texas so this is one of the first bills passed next session. He was successful in getting an amendment put on House Bill 7, which deals with Child Protective Services. It would mean CPS can’t separate families where parents may be going beyond the Compassionate Use Program.