Despite strong bipartisan support, public outreach and multiple hearings, Texas will have to wait until 2019 for marijuana reform. The main reason for the failure was scheduling.
The hearing for HB 2107 was held late in the legislative session, which means paperwork wasn’t filed in time for a vote. Texas lawmakers heard from law enforcement, doctors, patients, caregivers, veterans, and activists who supported the bill that would have allowed whole plant cannabis be made available to patients with qualifying conditions. Opposition mainly came from law enforcement and doctors who specialize in treating pain. A statewide awareness campaign helped educate the public on the importance of cannabis reform, and HB 2107 had support from 77 state legislators.
HB 81, which was co-sponsored by State representatives Joe Moody, D-El Paso and Jason Isaac, R-Dripping Springs, would have reduced penalties for marijuana possession to a $250 maximum for one ounce of cannabis or less, plus a citation. The vote was scheduled for the final day of the session but didn’t make it to the floor. The bill was an effort to curb mass incarceration and reign in the cost of prosecuting minor drug crimes, and was backed by 44 state legislators.
“Passing HB 81 would free up police resources and relieve jails, courts and taxpayers of substantial expense and time demands,”
said retired Texas District Court Judge John Delaney in March. “Each marijuana arrest uses about 2.5 hours of police time. With 60,000-70,000 people arrested in Texas annually, this is a significant amount of police time that could be devoted to patrolling residential neighborhoods and business locations and responding to emergency calls.”
Despite the support for both bills, the legislative session was packed with numerous bills that never made it to a vote. Activists are still encouraged by how far marijuana reform advanced through committees, and there has been speculation about revising the bills as amendments that could be tacked onto other legislation.
Should Texas legalize medical marijuana during the next legislative session in 2019, it would become the 30th state to do so. Nearly 60 percent of Americans now live in a state where marijuana has been legalized in some form.