The 2015 legislative session wrapped up in June, and it was historic in the movement to improve marijuana laws in the Lone Star State. All told, there were five bills that would have reduced penalties for possession of marijuana, one of which would have completely legalized access for adults. In addition, there were four bills to provide legal access to medical marijuana. A very limited medical marijuana bill — now the Compassionate Use Program — was signed into law, but is unlikely to function without significant changes. Nonetheless, it is a strong sign that the state legislature recognizes the medical benefits of marijuana for seriously ill patients. A summary of the law is available here.
Meanwhile, Rep. Joe Moody previously proposed a key bill, which would have replaced criminal penalties for possession of up to an ounce of marijuana with a civil fine of up to $250. Despite a powerful hearing in support of this sensible bill, HB 507, it fell short when time ran out at the end of the session. The bill would have allowed individuals to avoid arrest, possible jail time, and the stigma of a criminal conviction for possessing a small amount of marijuana. We expect a similar bill will be introduced during the next session in 2017.
According to a June 2015 poll conducted by the University of Texas and Texas Tribune, 68% of Texans support our efforts to reduce penalties for low-level marijuana possession. And in September 2015, the Texas Lyceum’s poll of Texas adults found that 46% support “legalizing the use of marijuana in the state of Texas,” with 50% opposed and 4% undecided.