All posts by Heather Fazio

TEXAS MARIJUANA POLICY VOTER GUIDE | 2020 PRIMARY RUNOFF EDITION

In July, there will be dozens of Primary Runoff Election around the state because, in those districts, no candidate received more than 50% of the vote in the March Primaries. The two candidates with the highest number of votes face off in the Primary Runoff Election to see who will represent their party on the ballot in November.

We surveyed the candidates to find out where they stand on marijuana policy, including voting records for incumbents. With this information, you can vote for candidates who share your values. Here is how you can prepare:  

  • Review the Texas Marijuana Policy Voter Guide for Republican and Democratic candidate responses. (Libertarians have a separate process.)
    Reminder: If you voted in one party’s Primary in March, you can only vote in that party’s runoff. Switching parties at this time would violate election law. So stick with your party for the runoff.
  • Early Voting Starts: Monday, June 29th, 2020 | Election Day: Tuesday, July 14th, 2020. Learn about voting locations, what you need to vote and more HERE.
  • Please make a donation to support this important program!
  • Texans must rely on our state elected officials, specifically our state representatives and state senators (so take a close look at yours). Learn more about engaging with your legislators by reviewing the Texas NORML Activist Training Guide.

Texas NORML originated the first cannabis centric voter guide in 2012. We’ve teamed up to expand the program with support from our broad coalition of organizations, activists, and community leaders dedicated to realizing effective, efficient, and evidence-based marijuana policies in Texas. We will also offer a General Election edition.

Participating in elections is a critical part of setting ourselves up for success when the Texas Legislature convenes in January. In addition to voting, please consider reaching out to the candidates to share your position on marijuana policy.

Make sure they know you and understand why this is such an important issue!

Texas Moves to Ban Retail Sales of Hemp (CBD) Vape Products | Here’s how you can help!

Submit your public comments on this proposed ban.

Last year, both the state and federal governments legalized low-THC (.3%) cannabis, defining it as hemp. Consumable hemp is now completely legal to possess and use, including oils, edibles, hemp flower, and vape cartridges. These products are widely available throughout the state and have been a blessing to many Texans who can benefit from cannabis, but do not qualify to participate in the Compassionate Use Program.

In December, we reported that draft rules proposed by the Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) would ban in-state retail sales of consumable hemp products intended for smoking, with a definition that includes vaping.

On May 8, DSHS moved forward with formally proposing these rules, including the following restriction:

§300.104.Manufacture, Processing, Distribution, and Retail Sale of Hemp Products for Smoking. 

The manufacture, processing, distribution, or retail sale of consumable hemp products for smoking is prohibited.

State law, as instituted with the passage of HB 1325, does prohibit the in-state manufacturing of hemp products intended for smoking. However, the law does not prohibit in-state retail sales of products manufactured outside Texas, as long as those products are cultivated and manufactured in compliance with federal law.

If adopted, these regulations would ban Texas businesses from selling hemp/CBD vape cartridges, cutting them out of this thriving market and pushing consumers to out-of-state retailers. It would also require that any hemp flower being sold is marketed for non-smokable purposes (making tinctures, oils, edibles, lotions, etc.). This means pre-rolled hemp would not be allowed. 

Prohibiting Texas companies from selling a product that is legal to possess and use in our state is bad for business and bad for our state. Plus, courts in Indiana and Florida have ruled already against these kinds of restrictions.

NOTE: None of the rules up for consideration would ban consumers from possessing these products or from purchasing them online from other states.

TAKE ACTION: DSHS is accepting input on these proposed rules until June 8 and there is time for revision before they are made final. If you are concerned about this issue, please respectfully share your feedback.

Could Legal Marijuana Benefit the Texas Economy?

For far too long, Texans have suffered under marijuana prohibition, a policy that has caused more harm than good. Many millions have been arrested, lives have been derailed, families have been torn apart, and valuable law enforcement resources have been squandered. 

In addition to reducing the devastating social impact of these failed policies, especially in poor and minority communities, the prospect of a new taxable market is catching the eye of lawmakers. And for good reason.

Even with modest taxes imposed, the State of Texas could bring in as much as $1 billion. This funding can help fill the budgetary gap created by government shutdowns in response to COVID-19.

CBS Austin recently covered this story, including an interview with Heather Fazio, director of Texans for Responsible Marijuana Policy:

Contact Governor Abbott and your state lawmakers to encourage their support for legalizing marijuana in Texas!

Texas Hemp Update: Regulations Adopted – License Applications Expected by March 16

At the end of 2018, hemp was legalized nationwide and in June 2019, state lawmakers instituted the Texas Hemp Program. Since then, the Texas Department of Agriculture (TDA)​ and Department of State Health Services (DSHS)​ have worked to establish the regulatory infrastructure for this program, including business licensing, testing standards, and rules relating to both industrial and consumable hemp products.

Here’s the latest…

BIG NEWS: ​TDA has adopted official rules​ governing the production (cultivation), processing, handling, sampling, testing, and disposal of hemp, which is defined as cannabis with less than .3% THC. According to an article published by the Austin-American Statesman, “The Texas Department of Agriculture has said it expects to start accepting online applications for hemp licenses on March 16.“​ 

TDA also published a list of certified hemp seed varieties​. Here’s the application​ for getting additional varieties approved.

BIG PROBLEM: DSHS is responsible for licensing the manufacturing, processing, and distribution of hemp products. Draft rules published by DSHS still include a provisions that would ban the in-state sale of consumable hemp products intended for smoking or vaping

Read more about this overreach of authority and take action​ to bring the proposed rules in line with state law, which does NOT prohibit the retail sale of these legal products.

UPDATE FROM THE USDA: Federal law requires labs testing hemp be DEA-registered. Since there are not enough DEA-registered labs across the country, the USDA has decided to not enforce this requirement​ for the duration of this crop year. Texas labs testing hemp will need to be registered with TDA. 

Additionally, the USDA has identified six methods of disposal​ for “hot” crops that have levels of THC higher than .3%.

Texas Regulators Seek to Ban Sales of Legal CBD Vape Products and Hemp Flower!

Take Action: Ask regulators to reconsider the proposed regulations.

Last year, both the state and federal governments legalized low-THC (.3%) cannabis, defining it as hemp. Consumable hemp is now completely legal to possess and use, including oils, edibles, hemp flower, and vape cartridges. These products are widely available throughout the state and have been a blessing to many Texans who can benefit from cannabis, but do not qualify to participate in the Compassionate Use Program.

In December, we reported that draft rules proposed by the Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) would ban in-state retail sales of consumable hemp products intended for smoking (hemp flower).

“Rule §300.004 MANUFACTURE OF SMOKABLE HEMP PRODUCT. (a) The processing, manufacturing, and retail sale of consumable hemp products for smoking is prohibited.”

State law, as instituted with the passage of HB 1325, does prohibit the in-state manufacturing of hemp products intended for smoking. However, the law does not prohibit in-state retail sales of products manufactured outside Texas, as long as those products are cultivated and manufactured in compliance with federal law.

After further analysis, the proposed rules would also ban hemp/CBD vape products! 

How was this overlooked? Because “smoking” is defined in the new law as “burning or igniting a substance and inhaling the smoke or heating a substance and inhaling the resulting vapor or aerosol.”

If adopted, these regulations would ban Texas businesses from selling hemp flower and hemp/CBD vape cartridges, cutting them out of this thriving market and pushing consumers to out-of-state retailers.

I do not believe they have the authority to do this.

DSHS is still accepting input on these proposed rules and there is time for revision before they are made final. If you are concerned about this issue, click here DSHS a quick email. Or email them directly at DSHSHempProgram@dshs.texas.gov to share your thoughtful feedback.

NOTE: None of the rules up for consideration would ban consumers from possessing these products or from purchasing them online from other states.

A public hearing was hosted on December 17, 2019, but very few people were there to testify. Watch here:

Hemp Cultivation/Manufacturing: Licensing Update

Since June, the Texas Department of Agriculture (TDA) has moved forward with drafting rules for the regulation and licensing of hemp cultivation and manufacturing. 

Last week, TDA’s plan for regulation was approved by the USDA last week, but the department must formally adopt their hemp rules in order for hemp production businesses to become licensed to operate. This is expected to happen in the next few weeks. “Early-mid March,” according to TDA Commissioner, Sid Miller.  More info here.

Update: USDA Approves Texas Hemp Plan!

Texas farmers are one step closer to their opportunity to grow hemp!

Yesterday afternoon, the USDA approved our state’s plan to regulate hemp. Before licenses can be issued, though, the Texas Department of Agriculture (TDA) must adopt rules for the regulation of hemp cultivation and manufacturing. Last week, TDA hosted a hearing to accept public comment relating to their draft rules (FAQ). They’re still accepting public input via email: RuleComments@TexasAgriculture.gov.

Separately, the Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) is charged with regulating retail sales of consumable hemp products. Proposed rules have been published and are mostly good, aiming to protect consumers. However, DSHS seems to be overstepping their authority with a provision banning in-state retail sales of “smokable” hemp products. 

While the Legislature did prohibit the manufacturing of “smokable” hemp, they did not prohibit the sale of products manufactured outside of Texas. DSHS has received considerable feedback and is expected to publish a revised draft of the rules in February, giving time for more feedback before finalizing in March. Read more here and consider contacting regulators if this is important to you.

Important Note: Every part of the hemp plant (including the flower with < .3% THC) is and will remain legal to possess under all proposed rules and statutes in place. The only question is whether or not regulators are going to cut Texas businesses out of the market, pushing consumers to out-of-state retailers.

Stay tuned for more updates as they are available. If you appreciate the work we do, please consider making a donation or becoming a sustaining member!

Austin: No more arrests for small amounts of marijuana!

With unanimous approval, last night the Austin City Council approved a resolution that will put an end to arrests for low-level marijuana possession!

This resolution does the following:

  • Commit to not wasting city resources on testing THC levels for low-level marijuana offenses
  • To the extent allowable under state law, stop the APD from citing and arresting people for possession of marijuana cases they know will be rejected by the prosecutors

Click here to read public comments offered by Heather Fazio, director of Texans for Responsible Marijuana Policy and click here to watch the video of all public comment.

Special THANKS to the resolution sponsors: Council Member Gregorio Casar, Council Member Natasha Harper-Madison, Mayor Pro Tem Delia Garza, and Council Member Jimmy Flannigan!
View Austin City Council Agenda.

Texas Hemp: Public Hearing on Proposed Rules/Regulations

WACO — The Texas Department of Agriculture (TDA) hosted a hearing at the Texas Farm Bureau Conference Center to accept public comments on the draft hemp rules, which were published Friday, Jan. 10, 2020.

Hearing audio transcript available here.

Hemp (cannabis with < 0.3% THC) is currently legal to sell, possess, and consume in our state. Regulatory agencies are working to establish rules that create licensing requirements for cultivators, manufacturers, and retailers. If you are currently selling consumable hemp products, you will soon need a retail license. Details to be determined.

More information and Frequently Asked Questions about the Texas hemp program can be found on the TDA website here. Submit your comments and suggested amendments to the rules via email: rulecomments@texasagriculture.gov.

The Texas Hemp Program outline has been sent to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) for approval.  This document and the proposed rules must be approved and finalized before TDA can begin granting licenses to legally grow hemp in Texas.

Commissioner Miller said at the hearing that he expected licensing to be available in early-mid March. Rules must be finalized before licensing can begin.

Related: The Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) is considering draft rules to regulate consumable hemp products. Most of the rules are acceptable, but they are setting outside of their statutory authority with a provision that would ban “smokable” hemp. Read more here.

Take Action Austin: Support City Council Resolution to Stop Arrests for Marijuana Possession

On Thursday, January 23rd, the Austin City Council will consider Item 59, a resolution that would limit enforcement of low-level possession of marijuana (POM). This will help countless Austin residents avoid the devastating consequences of criminal marijuana enforcement, which disproportionately impact people of color and already-struggling communities. 

Please ask your Council Member to approve this important resolution!

This resolution would do the following:

  • Commit to not wasting city resources on testing THC levels for low-level marijuana offenses
  • To the extent allowable under state law, stop the APD from citing and arresting people for POM cases they know will be rejected by the prosecutors

Special THANKS to the resolution sponsors: Council Member Gregorio Casar, Council Member Natasha Harper-Madison, Mayor Pro Tem Delia Garza, and Council Member Jimmy Flannigan!
View Austin City Council Agenda.

Show up this Thursday, January 23!

The #DecrimATX resolution will be considered in the evening, so show up at City Hall at 5:30pm to register your support for the resolution!

Free parking is available in the City Hall parking garage. Upon arrival, locate a kiosk and register your support for Item 59.

Media Coverage: Texas Tribune | Austin Chronicle |KXAN | Texas Observer | KLBJ 590 (Audio) | KXAN (again)