Tag Archives: marijuana

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!

Feds Admit Marijuana’s Potential To Reduce Opioid Problems

Originally Posted By Tom Angell | May 01, 2017 – Here

A growing body of recent scientific research indicates that legal marijuana access leads to reduced opioid issues, and now the federal government can’t help but admit it.

In a new update to a webpage on cannabis’s medical uses, the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) reported that “medical marijuana products may have a role in reducing the use of opioids needed to control pain.”

Reporting the results of studies that the agency funded, the revised NIDA page says that one “found an association between medical marijuana legalization and a reduction in overdose deaths from opioid pain relievers, an effect that strengthened in each year following the implementation of legislation.”

A second federally-funded study “showed that legally protected access to medical marijuana dispensaries is associated with lower levels of opioid prescribing, lower self-report of nonmedical prescription opioid use, lower treatment admissions for prescription opioid use disorders and reduction in prescription opioid overdose deaths.”

Further, the latter study demonstrated that “the reduction in deaths was present only in states with dispensaries (not just medical marijuana laws) and was greater in states with active dispensaries.”

In other words, the federal government knows that the easier it is for people to access legal marijuana, the less likely they will rely on potentially deadly opiate-based drugs.

Other recent research suggests that “medical cannabis treatment may reduce the dose of opioids required for pain relief,” the new update to the NIDA page says, including one study which examined the Medicare program and found that “availability of medical marijuana significantly reduced prescribing of medications used for conditions that medical marijuana can treat, including opioids for pain.”

NIDA is funding a number of additional ongoing scientific investigations on the topic, the webpage says.

The new passage on opioids isn’t seen on the most recently cached version of the NIDA page on the Wayback Machine archived on April 18, suggesting it was added within the past two weeks.

Also last month, a separate study found that spending on prescription drugs through Medicaid is significantly lower in states with medical cannabis laws than in states without medical marijuana.

“If all states had had a medical marijuana law…[annual] total savings for fee-for-service Medicaid could have been $1.01 billion,” the researchers wrote.

The new NIDA website update is the latest development to suggest that the agency may be warming to the idea that legalization isn’t an outright public health disaster and may actually have some benefits.

Last week, when a study found that illegal marijuana use and marijuana use disorders increased significantly more in states with medical cannabis laws than in other states, NIDA Director Nora Volkow and other agency officials went out of their way to admit in a companion editorial that “research to date has not documented an increase in cannabis use by adolescents in the United States overall or in those states that enacted new marijuana laws.”

And in March, NIDA edited another marijuana page on its site to read as slightly more open to the idea that cannabis has medical benefits.

Despite the mounting evidence about marijuana’s potential to reduce opioid issues and NIDA’s admission of the same, other federal officials like U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions continue to dismiss the notion that cannabis could be a safer alternative to prescription drugs.

“‘Marijuana is a cure for opiate abuse.’ Give me a break,” he said in February. “This is the kind of argument that’s been made out there to just — almost a desperate attempt to defend the harmlessness of marijuana or even its benefits. I doubt that’s true. Maybe science will prove I’m wrong.”

Now, thanks to NIDA, the Trump administration has the science on marijuana and opioids compiled in one place.

Texas farmers support bill to make hemp a potential cash crop

Originally Posted: 12:23 p.m. Wednesday, April 12, 2017 By Bob Sechler – American-Statesman Staff here

Hemp, the non-psychoactive cousin of marijuana, has some fans among Texas farmers.

A number of them turned out Wednesday for a House committee hearing at the Capitol to support a bill defining so-called “industrial hemp” as legally distinct from marijuana. The bill, House Bill 3587,
would allow hemp to be grown and marketed in Texas under a federal pilot program in which 31 other states are participating.

“There are thousands of uses for this crop,” testified Jeff Williams, a representative of Clayton Williams Farms & Ranches in far West Texas and the son of the one-time GOP gubernatorial candidate. “And Texas has really the best climate almost anywhere in the United States and other countries” to cultivate it.

Farmers and some university researchers who spoke Wednesday during the hearing before the House Committee on Agriculture & Livestock cited an abundance of uses for hemp. The plant — which has an extremely low level of tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, the component of marijuana that produces a high — is a source of fiber for clothing and industrial parts, they said, and its seeds and oils have been used in health and food supplements.

Under existing laws, hemp-derived products can be imported into Texas and sold in the state, but the plant can’t be grown here. State Rep. Bill Zedler, R-Arlington, who co-authored HB 3587, said he did so partly because of the inconsistency.

“It ought to be something that we ought to be able to grow in Texas,” Zedler said. “This will provide an economic boon to the state.”

Still, some members of the committee noted the close relationship between hemp and marijuana and questioned how advocates for hemp can overcome negative impressions about it.

“How do we get away from the perception that this is going to be abused in the way that marijuana is abused?” asked state Rep. Lynn Stuckey, R-Denton.

Laurance Armour, a south Texas rice farmer, said education is the key. He said allowing farmers to start cultivating hemp will help because the public will become more familiar with the crop and its benefits.

If legal, hemp would be an ideal crop in South Texas because of its low water requirements and tolerance for sandy soils, Armour said.

“Rice is going to go away” because of high water costs and other factors, he said. “Hemp could be the answer. Unfortunately, when everybody hears ‘hemp,’ they think it’s marijuana. It’s not the same crop.”

No action was taken on the bill after the hearing, and it remains pending in the committee.

In addition to Zedler’s industrial hemp bill, more than a dozen bills have been filed in the current session of the state Legislature dealing with various aspects of conventional marijuana, meaning marijuana with psychoactive levels of THC.

House Bill 81, which would decriminalize possession of small amounts of marijuana, has gained some traction, winning approval from the House Criminal Jurisprudence Committee this month, although it has yet to be taken up by the full House for a vote.

Under the bill — co-authored by state Rep. Joe Moody, D-El Paso — law enforcement officers would write tickets in such cases instead of making arrests, and culprits would pay fines of up to $250, do community service or attend substance-abuse classes, but they wouldn’t suffer the permanent stigma of having a criminal record and they wouldn’t crowd local courts and jails. The bill defines a small amount of marijuana as an ounce or less.

Some other bills would legalize medical marijuana for any doctor-corroborated debilitating health condition, such as cancer, chronic pain, autism or post-traumatic stress disorder, although the bills have yet to be scheduled for committee hearings.

Cannabis is Medicine, Claim Pro Athletes at upcoming Southwest Cannabis Conference & Expo

Cannabis is Medicine, Claim Pro Athletes at upcoming Southwest Cannabis Conference & Expo
Celebrities in Support of Cannabis, Southwest Cannabis Conference & Expo Montell Williams, David Fowler, Marvin Washington, John Salley and many more.

Originally Published Here By Marketwired – Apr 11, 2017

FORT WORTH, TX—  NFL players and other pro athletes gather in Fort Worth at the Southwest Cannabis Conference & Expo to proclaim cannabis is medicine. The event, scheduled for April 21-23, will be held at the Fort Worth Conference Center.

The future of medical marijuana is bright and opportunities abound. NFL and other pro sports are the next battleground. With Jerry Jones and Jeff Sessions acknowledging and accepting medical marijuana, the future is clear.

As de-criminalization of cannabis spreads across Texas, debates continue in governing bodies about how medical marijuana will be responsibly implemented, and if and when other adult use occurs. This is potentially an economic opportunity that hasn’t been seen since the oil boom. For three days over the weekend of April 21-23rd in the Fort Worth area, the American cannabis industry and national experts will discuss how to capitalize on this trend. Even Cowboy’s owner Jerry Jones is a part of the discussion as we’ve now heard.

Texas is widely considered to be one of the most lucrative emerging cannabis markets. The Lone Star State has a burgeoning cannabis industry that’s on the cusp of becoming one of the biggest U.S. markets.

This event features a line-up of celebrities, former pro football players, medical professionals and more, all working cohesively to bring about increased cannabis awareness.

The Conference is three packed days of cannabis information, education and networking, including a major expo with 125 exhibitors. Accredited Comprehensive Medical Cannabis and Cannabinoid Medical Cannabis Training (https://swccexpo.com/texas/accredited-cannabis-education). Also, a Women & Cannabis Business Seminar entitled “Stories and Steps from Women in Business” – Getting Started Series” hosted by Genifer Murray, Cannabis Pioneer and Story Simon, former President of Overstock.com. (https://swccexpo.com/texas/women-cannabis-business-seminar)

At a special event on April 21, join Marvin Washington, Boo Williams, Darren Long and many more athletes and medical professionals on the discussion of cannabis and NFL at http://proathletesprocannabis.com.

To watch an interview with Marvin Washington on ABC, go to https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BDc3_vZnlHo

Come see what the new world of cannabis will become in the foreseeable future. Even more important is to learn about this business opportunity, which is still in its infant stages. Come to Fort Worth as the American cannabis industry spends a weekend in Texas to explore this emerging trend.

For additional information go to: http://SWCCExpo.com.
Dallas / Fort Worth, Texas
2nd Annual Southwest Cannabis Conference & Expo
April 22 – 23, 2017
Fort Worth Convention Center
Fort Worth, Texas

ProAthletesProCannabis.com

Image Available: http://www2.marketwire.com/mw/frame_mw?attachid=3128435

Small steps forward for medical marijuana in big ol’ Texas

Originally posted by Lauren L’Amie, April 4, 2017, here

 

The possibilities seem endless in a place as big as Texas—a state where you can you can buy guns and groceries in the same trip, or easily and legally purchase exotic animals.

Still, in all but one county, possession of two ounces or less of marijuana can result in a misdemeanor charge, up to 180 days in prison, or a fine of up to $2,000. Four or more ounces is a federal offense punishable by up to two years in prison. Could that soon change?

Police arrest an estimated 70,000 Texans annually for marijuana possession, usually in small amounts. But according to recent polls, 68 percent of Texans support reducing penalties for low-level marijuana possession.

Safe to say, it’s taken the legislators in the Lone Star State a little too long to catch up to public opinion. With the passage of new medical marijuana policy, however, the Texas legislature isn’t as far away from legalizing weed as it would seem.

In September 2017, the Texas Compassionate Use Act, Texas’s first small medical marijuana victory, is set to become viable law thanks to the exhaustive efforts of lobbying groups across the state.

The Compassionate Use Act allows patients with epilepsy access to low-THC marijuana and CBD oil, both of which have been proven to prevent seizures and replace other epilepsy drugs that come with nasty side effects. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, who signed the bill into law in June 2015, said it would provide “healing and hope for children,” although he reiterated that its signing does not open the door for recreational marijuana use in Texas.

Heather Fazio, the Texas political director for the Marijuana Policy Project, said that despite Abbott’s show of support, the regulatory nature of this legislation does virtually nothing to help the very few patients that it claims to benefit.

“While the passage of this legislation was monumental in that the Texas legislature acknowledged cannabis as medicine, the existing program is unreasonably restrictive,” Fazio says.

According to the legislation, the state will only grant permission to patients who have “intractable epilepsy,” meaning they must have already exhausted two other prescription drug options with no success. Not only that, patients must also receive official prescriptions for cannabis from two state-licensed physicians before they can access treatment.

Medicinal cannabis has been proven to help adults and children by reducing seizure frequency regardless of whether their condition is “intractable” by the Texas definition. One study conducted this year showed a whopping 90 percent of epilepsy patients reported success using cannabis products rather than other seizure medication.

In the 28 other states where medical marijuana programs exist for patients, patients have to go through a formal process to be certified to use medical marijuana. Since it’s illegal under federal law to prescribe cannabis, patients can receive recommendations and certifications directly from a physician, enabling them to then seek out legal dispensaries. But under the Texas Compassionate Use, “recommendations” and “certifications” are not technically the same as a “prescription.”

For Fazio, the flawed language in the bill is perhaps the most problematic in that it doesn’t protect doctors. If the bill’s framing stays as it is now, Texas physicians are required to “prescribe” cannabis—which is both illegal and puts doctors in danger of losing their DEA registration.

“This is all legal semantics, and it’s kind of annoying,” Fazio says. “But it is important so that doctors have the confidence they need to move forward with getting their patients access to this medicine that can help them.”

Policy shifts in Texas tend to begin with smaller trial runs in pockets across the state alongside massive lobbying efforts, like those of Fazio and organizations like Texans for Responsible Marijuana Policy.

In recent years, Texas has had hints of tiny weed victories across the state—Houston’s Harris County, for instance, is currently the only county in the state that allows offenders caught with four ounces or less of the drug the option to take a $150 “cognitive decision” class rather than walk away with a misdemeanor charge on their record as part of new county legislation passed March 1.

In 2015, State Representative David Simpson (R-Longview) submitted HB 2165 in support of recreational marijuana use. A Tea Party-backed Republican, Simpson made a case for a traditionally liberal issue with a deeply conservative, unexpectedly religious backbone: weed, Simpson argued, was made by God. And a righteous God doesn’t make mistakes.

“I’m especially cautious when it comes to laws banning plants,” Simpson writes, “I don’t believe that when God made marijuana he made a mistake that government needs to fix.”

As the Compassionate Use Act’s Sept. 1 implementation date approaches, the state is required to issue a minimum of three cannabis business licenses by the end of April. Until then, two companion bills, HB 2107 and SB 269, are in committee pushing for the expansion of both the language and scope of the Compassionate Use Act. If passed, the bills will allow patients to access the medicine they need without a hitch while assuring that Texas physicians are protected.

“It’s allowing them access to this medicine that can greatly improve their quality of life and decrease suffering,” Fazio says. “And ultimately, give them the medicine that can help them in lieu of the pharmaceutical drugs that for many have proven to be dangerous and addictive.”

Texas House Panels Endorses Lower Fines For Marijuana Possession

Originally published here

AUSTIN(AP) – A bill that would make carrying small amounts of marijuana a civil penalty in Texas instead of a criminal one is advancing in the state House.

The House Criminal Jurisprudence committee on Monday approved a bill that would make possession of up to an ounce of marijuana punishable by a fine of up to $250 instead of a criminal charge. A person also could not be arrested solely for possession of the small amount of pot.

A third violation would increase the fine to $500 as a Class C misdemeanor, though.

The bill now advances to the full House for consideration and its prospects are uncertain. Republican Gov. Greg Abbott has previously warned the state won’t legalize marijuana for recreational or medicinal while he’s in office.

Marijuana Decriminalization Bill Advances Past Committee with GOP Support

Originally posted by Sam DeGrave on Mon., April 3, 2017, 5:07pm CST here

Advocates applauded Monday’s vote, pointing to the more than 61,000 Texans who were arrested for possession of marijuana in 2015.

Marijuana possession could become a fine-only offense under House Bill 81.  SWARE/FLICKR

The House Criminal Jurisprudence Committee advanced a marijuana decriminalization bill on Monday with the help of two Republicans.

With a 4–2 vote, the committee approved House Bill 81, authored by Chair Joe Moody, D-El Paso, at Monday’s hearing. Under HB 81, police would ticket someone caught with an ounce or less of marijuana rather than charging them with a Class B misdemeanor, which carries a punishment of up to six months in jail.

The measure passed with bipartisan support, but both no votes came from Republican freshmen — Cole Hefner, of Mt. Pleasant, and Mike Lang, of Granbury. Republicans Todd Hunter, of Corpus Christi, and Terry Wilson, of Marble Falls, joined the committee’s Democrats in advancing the bill beyond its first legislative hurdle.

State Representative Joe Moody, D-El Paso (right)  SAM DEGRAVE

“It is a fairly new concept in Texas not to criminalize conduct,” Moody told the Observer. “Part of the problem has been just getting people comfortable with the idea of treating this differently than we have in the past.”

Some Texas Republicans, who have traditionally opposed weakening penalties for drug convictions, seem to be warming to the idea of decriminalizing marijuana possession.

The GOP opposition might have been stiffer Monday had Moody not offered a committee substitute, which is less forgiving than the original proposal. The new version allows judges to elevate the civil offense to a Class C misdemeanor if a violator has already been cited three times for possessing small amounts of pot.

“If you’re going to be a frequent customer, you will be moved into the criminal arena,” Moody said during the hearing.

State Representative Terry Wilson, R-Marble Falls  FACEBOOK

It was the substitute that won Moody the vote of the committee’s other Republican freshman. Wilson and his staff have been working with Moody on the bill, and they see the committee substitute as a step in the right direction, according to Jeff Frazier, Wilson’s chief of staff. Wilson is considering signing on to the bill as a joint author.

“Whether or not we end up as a joint author, this is a change we’d like to see in the state of Texas, and we’ll try our best to get those changes made,” Frazier told the Observer Monday.

Wilson may be new to the House, but his support as a joint author could be critically important for Moody. With Wilson, the bill would have two GOP joint authors. Representative Jason Isaac, of Dripping Springs, has already signed on.

Last session, Moody carried a nearly identical measure. Several Republicans, including David Simpson and Bryan Hughes — both of whom are no longer in the House — signed on to Moody’s bill as co-authors in 2013, but no GOP member supported the measure as a joint author, which is a greater show of support.

Moody will need all the help he can get from Republicans, including House Criminal Jurisprudence Committee Vice Chair Hunter, who voted in support of the bill on Monday. The proposal now advances to the Calendars Committee, which determines the flow of legislation into the full House. Hunter chairs the powerful committee, which comprises 10 Republicans and five Democrats.

Hunter will play a major role in determining whether HB 81 makes it to the House floor — further than any bill lessening penalties for marijuana offenses has made it in the legislative process.

Advocates applauded Monday’s vote, pointing to the more than 61,000 people who were arrested in Texas for possession of marijuana in 2015, according to Department of Public Safety data.

“The state’s current policy of arresting and jailing people for simple marijuana possession is completely unwarranted,” said Heather Fazio, a spokesperson for Texans for Responsible Marijuana Policy. “Law enforcement officials’ time and limited resources would be better spent addressing serious crimes… No one should be saddled with a lifelong criminal record simply for possessing a substance that is less harmful than alcohol.”