Category Archives: News

WATCH NOW: Legislative committee to discuss sensible marijuana policy

Watch the hearing now!

Chairman Joe Moody’s House Bill 334 would replace criminal penalties for marijuana possession with a simple ticket. This proposal would allow at least three opportunities for an individual to avoid arrest, jail time, and a criminal record for the possession of up to one ounce.

Today, the Criminal Jurisprudence Committee will discuss the bill and consider testimony. You can watch online now.

Do you have personal or professional experience with our state’s current marijuana laws? If so, please consider sharing it with the committee.

Submit informal written testimony via email to the committee clerk, Rachel Wetzel <rachel.wetzel_hc@house.texas.gov>:

1) Attaching a PDF file to your email is best. Try to keep it to one page, including all your contact information.

2)  The title of your file and subject of your email should be as follows: “First and Last Name — Supporting HB 334”

During the regular session, this version of Chairman Moody’s civil penalties bill passed out of committee and was scheduled for a vote in the Texas House. Unfortunately, the clock ran out before representatives could cast their votes. Today’s hearing offers us an opportunity to keep this important issue alive and on the table for discussion.

VIDEO: Texas patients ask Governor Abbott for relief

Ask Governor Abbott to add medical cannabis to the special session!

Countless patients are needlessly suffering because Texas’ Compassionate Use Program is unreasonably restrictive. Advocates are calling on the governor to make patients a priority during the special session.

Will you join them? Contact Gov. Greg Abbott today, and ask him to allow lawmakers to take up medical cannabis legislation!

ProtectPatients.org

Currently, the program is limited to allowing patients with intractable epilepsy access to low-THC cannabis, a variation of the plant that helps very few. Worse, though, is that the role of doctors is flawed, making them vulnerable to federal interference.

During the regular legislative session, we saw tremendous bipartisan support for a bill that would have protected doctors and made this program more inclusive for patients suffering from debilitating medical conditions. More than half of the Texas House (78 representatives!) — including 30 conservative Republicans — signed on to the bill, demonstrating an unprecedented shift in opinion by lawmakers. Let’s keep up the pressure, Texas!

A special legislative session is underway, giving us another chance to improve this well-intentioned program. Advocates including patients, caregivers, veterans, and doctors are calling upon Governor Abbott to add medical cannabis to the special session agenda.

Please contact Governor Abbott and your legislators. Ask them to put compassion first and put people before politics! Then, share this message and video with other Texans, so that they, too, can raise their voices for compassion.

Texas Action: Ask Gov. Abbott to add medical cannabis to the special session!

Compassion should be inclusive. Contact the governor now!

During Texas’ regular legislative session this spring, more than half of the Texas House signed onto a bill that would make the Compassionate Use Program more inclusive. Unfortunately, that bill was beat by the clock and was not given a vote. There’s a special session underway now, giving us another chance to bring patients safe and legal access to medical cannabis!
Only Gov. Abbott can add an item to the list of issues legislators can consider during the special session. Contact him now!
Texas’ existing law only applies to patients with intractable seizures. Let the governor know: Patients with other debilitating conditions deserve protection, too.
Many of the issues being debated by legislators are contentious and causing heated debate along partisan lines. Unlike those issues, the matter of medical cannabis has earned bi-partisan support.
Take action today by contacting Gov. Abbott and your legislators; ask them to add this important issue to the special session for consideration. It’ll be tough to convince the governor to add anything relating to cannabis to the special session, so we need to create a groundswell of support. After you take action, please spread the word. Texas patients are counting on us.

Sorry Texans: Medical marijuana still out of reach across state line

A new opinion piece appeared in the Texarkana Gazette that focuses on the inability for Texas residents to purchase medical marijuana in Arkansas.

There has been a lot of speculation on social media about what medical marijuana will mean to Arkansas and, specifically, the Twin Cities. The state line has always put the two Texarkanas in a unique situation, especially when it came to law enforcement. For example, for years the east side of the line was wet and the west was dry. Things have loosened up a bit in Bowie County in the past few years, but the Arkansas side still has a hold on hard liquor for retail sales.

 

Similar to the way Arkansas and Texas handled hard liquor sales, medical marijuana will only be available for access to patients who reside in Arkansas.

Marijuana for any purpose remains illegal in Texas and under federal law. Doctors have to be licensed in Arkansas to give the OK, and only Arkansas residents can obtain the medical marijuana card that allows them to buy in a legal dispensary.
Those who live in a state where medical marijuana is already legal, such as California and Nevada, and have a valid card from their home state will be allowed to buy in Arkansas. But Texas doesn’t allow medical marijuana. So if you are a Texas resident you are out of luck no matter what your medical needs. And we should add that mere possession is still illegal in Texas, and taking marijuana across state lines is not just a state but a federal offense.

Unfortunately for Texas citizens in need of medical marijuana, there is still no legal way to access dispensaries in Arkansas.

Texas: Ask your representative to support Rep. Lucio III’s amendment to protect doctors

Doctors cannot prescribe cannabis, but they can recommend it. Let’s fix the law!

Texas’ Compassionate Use Program has a poison pill: It requires doctors to prescribe cannabis, which is illegal under federal law! Please email your representative today to ask him or her to support Rep. Lucio III’s amendment that would protect doctors who participate in the Compassionate Use Program by allowing them to “recommend” cannabis instead.
In 2015, the Texas Legislature passed the Compassionate Use
Program, allowing those with intractable epilepsy to access medical cannabis to treat their seizure condition. Rep. Lucio III is planning to put forward an amendment to the Medical Board sunset bill that would make a small change, protecting doctors and bringing our state law in line with federal requirements.
Because of cannabis’ status as a Schedule I drug, it cannot be “prescribed.” It can, however, be recommended, and patients can be formally certified by doctors through the state registry. (More information is available here.) This small change does not expand the program, it simply corrects a small error and provides protection for participating doctors to make sure the program actually works. No working medical cannabis law relies on doctors “prescribing” cannabis.
Please contact your representative now; then, share this email with those who are interested in making the Compassionate Use Program functional.
Thank you for your support and activism!

Cannabis laws often don’t make sense

An article written by Dustin Nimz, a Texas criminal defense attorney,  appeared in the Times Record News today.  Nimz discusses the spike in arrests for marijuana over the last several years in the North Central Texas area.

The current marihuana laws do not reflect the opinions of Texans and have not kept up with the ways that people are using cannabis in our state. In the latest University of Texas/Texas Tribune poll of a representative sample of Texas voters 83 percent of Texans favor legalization of marijuana in some form, either medical only, small amounts only, or full legalization. The poll, and my own experiences talking to potential jurors indicates that the vast majority of Texans do not perceive marihuana as a danger to our communities and it should not be regulated as a drug.

In the current legislative session, a marihuana legalization bill advanced the farthest that any similar bill has before. HB 81 would have made possession of small amounts of marihuana, less than one ounce, a civil offense subjecting the citizen to a $250 fine. That fine would not be a part of a criminal record going forward that would affect that citizen’s ability to work, receive federal student aid, or drive a vehicle.

After two public hearings the bill, received favorable bipartisan support and was sent to the calendaring committee. It was set to be heard by the House and to receive a vote, but actions regarding bathrooms, education, and the budget did not allow the agenda to advance to HB 81. The authors expect to reintroduce the bill and others in the next session or include its provisions as an amendment to other bills this year.

Nimz goes on to discuss the ineffective  manner in which Texas treats marijuana derivatives.  In Texas, any item containing tetrahydrocannabinol (THC),  the main active compound in marijuana, is classified as a controlled substance.

The possession of any amount of THC outside of the plant is a felony offense in the state of Texas with punishment ranges similar to possessing methamphetamine or cocaine. The purpose for the law was to keep people from trafficking in concentrated THC products such as hash, however the law is most commonly used to prosecute people bringing candy, baked goods, granola, etc., back from Colorado. Much of the marihuana consumed today is not smoked but used in these edible forms. Those products generally contain an amount of THC similar to a misdemeanor amount of marihuana but the entirety of the product is weighed.

For example, a standard amount of market marihuana would have around 18% THC. That would mean that a misdemeanor amount, under 4 ounces, would contain 18,720 mg of THC. However, a chocolate bar weighing 1.7 ounces containing just 180mg of THC would result in a second degree felony and up to 20 years in prison. The laws simply don’t make sense when we treat a college kid with a chocolate bar the same as a drug dealer with a quarter pound of meth.

I fight to protect people against unfair laws by discussing these same issues with District Attorneys, juries, and judges, but the real solution has to be common-sense reform of our drug laws in Texas.

Texas Legislature adjourns without reforming marijuana laws. Where’s the silver lining?

They failed to improve the law, but progress was made thanks to you!

During the 2017 legislative session, we saw unprecedented progress in our effort to reform Texas’ outdated and inhumane marijuana laws!

Medical Cannabis

Introduced in House and Senate 

Bipartisan support with 77 co-authors

Public Hearing (outstanding testimony!)

Passed House committee with 7-2 vote!

Scheduled for a vote in the House.

Decriminalization

Introduced in House and Senate

Bipartisan support with 41 co-authors

Public Hearing (outstanding testimony!)

Passed House committee with 4-2 vote!

Scheduled for a vote in the House.

Vote on by the House. (Beat by the clock.)

To bring about this historic change, advocates from around the state called, wrote, and visited with their legislators to express support for reform.

Texans from all corners of the Lone Star State filled the halls of our Capitol on lobby day and provided excellent testimony
during committee hearings.

We hosted training events, press conferences, educational exhibits and legislative briefings. 

We filmed key advocates and produced two videos, one featuring a Texas caregiver and the other featuring a Dallas police officer, which aired on television.

All of this work, executed with professionalism and passion, brought the reform movement closer than ever to our goal of repealing Texas’ failed policies of marijuana prohibition. Between sessions, we will continue educating our lawmakers, building relationships, empowering advocates, and publishing a voter guide so representatives can be held accountable.

We’re in it to win it, so let’s keep up the pressure!

Onward!

A frantic push for medical marijuana in Texas, bureaucratic heartbreak and renewed resolve

A great column by Neal Pollack was posted on The Cannabist today highlighting the strong push for medical marijuana policy reform in Texas.

In the state Senate, José Menendez filed a comprehensive medical bill last November, SB 269, but it has sat dormant in committee as the GOP-dominated body pursued other legislative priorities, like banning sanctuary cities and telling transgendered teens which bathroom to use.

In the House, Rep. Eddie Lucio III, a Democrat from Brownsville, saw a political opportunity, and a chance to do some good. After watching a heartwrenching YouTube video in which the Zartlers, a North Texas family, treat their teenage daughter’s severe autism with vaporized cannabis, Lucio III checked to see if a companion medical bill had been filed in the Texas House. It hadn’t. Thus HB 2107 was born. “We filed it right away,” Lucio III tells The Cannabist. “Just based on what I had read, I knew it was the right thing to do.”

Lucio III reached out to Rep. Jason Isaac, a Republican from Dripping Springs who had shown sympathy toward medical-marijuana reform, to sign on as cosponsor to HB 2107. But it languished in the House for months after it was first filed in mid-February.

Due to running out of time during legislative session, activists are going to have to spend another legislative season working to gain rights that, by 2019, likely will be more common throughout the country.

“People want someone’s head on a pitchfork,” Texas NORML’s Finkel said after the bill’s demise. “They are frustrated and angry. And you know what? They should be. They are dying. It’s awful. But they’re going to have to get involved during the full cycle…We finally find this bipartisan bill that so many people could agree on, and it was too late.”

Richardson family continues push to expand medical marijuana use in Texas

An  article posted by Marie Saavedra for WFAA discusses one Texas families Facebook video that recently went viral.

In late February, the parents of Kara Zartler took a risk by publicly posting a video showing their daughter’s symptoms at their worst. They did it to show what happened next. It’s Kara, being calmed by vaporized cannabis.

The clip was seen by millions on Facebook.
“I didn’t expect the volume of people that said ‘Woah, our child’s just like yours,'” said Mark Zartler, Kara’s father.
 The Zartlers  video had a great impact in the push for House Bill 2107, which would expand the access of patients with debilitating illnesses to use medical marijuana.
The Zartler’s were back and forth to Austin several times to campaign for the bill to be put on the legislative calendar. Even with bipartisan support, they learned last week it wouldn’t be heard this session.
The next session is in 2019, and the Zartler’s feel their odds of getting a bill heard will only get better. Until then, they’ll keep building on the momentum gained by their personal moment that became a public plea.
“I would do it again,” said Mark, of sharing the video publicly. “It’s worth kind of making a stand about something.”

 

Crowds march to remove stigma of medical marijuana

An article written by  Nicole Rosales for  KVUE  covered a large marijuana march in downtown Austin.

A large crowd marched through Austin on Saturday for the 10th annual Marijuana March.  Marchers hoped to bring attention to marijuana law reform.m

Dave Wieneche, the group’s athletics director said we’re constantly losing Texans because they need the drug for medical reasons.

“Or they’re just passing away because they can’t afford their medicine, or because the pharmaceuticals they’re taking are deteriorating their bodies,” he said.

Holding signs and chanting, the march began at Austin City Hall and trailed through Downtown before it ended at the steps of the Texas State Capitol.

Several speakers spoke passionately about the effects current laws have on them.

 

Eric Espionza, born with cerebral palsy and an active marijuana user, said although three bills related to cannabis legalization have failed, the fight isn’t over.

“The next two years are vital for us. We need you to be the voice you said you would be for us and stand for us when we cannot,” Espionza said.

The next opportunity to pass legislation will come in 2019 when the Texas legislature meets again. Until then, there are already 29 states which have passed medical marijuana laws.