When it comes to cannabis laws Texas is not a friendly place. For instance if a person is caught possessing between 1 and 4 grams of cannabis concentrates (not uncommon on the West Coast) they are looking at a felony which carries a penalty of a $10,000 fine and up to 10 years in prison.
I live in Oregon where possession of up to five grams of cannabis concentrates is allowed, but that same amount in Texas could result in up to 20 years in prison.
Possession of a personal amount of flower (under two ounces) is still an arrest-able offense in Texas, punishable by a $2,000 fine and a half a year in jail.
Those penalties are inhumane in my opinion. To make matters worse, the options for changing Texas’s outdated cannabis laws are limited.
Texas does not have a citizen initiative process, by which citizens can gather signatures to put cannabis reform to a vote. The only way to reform cannabis laws in Texas is via the Texas Legislature.
Fortunately Texas has a small army of activists that have been working very hard to get legislation passed, a small army that has grown so much lately that it’s truly inspiring.
Record ‘Texas Marijuana Lobby Day’ attendance
The first-ever ‘Texas Marijuana Lobby Day’ took place in 2011. For those that aren’t familiar, a lobby day is when a group of activists descend on a capitol building for the purpose of meeting and talking to as many elected officials as possible.
In 2011 the initial Lobby Day in Texas drew 25 people. That’s a fairly strong turnout, especially considering this was in 2011, before any legal adult-use states existed and the number of medical cannabis states was much lower than it is today.
The Lobby Day grew in attendance the second year, and has continued to grow with a new record being set for the 2017 event – 375 people!
I don’t know that I’ve ever heard of a cannabis-related lobby day being attended by more people. Activists came from all over Texas to let their elected officials know that they need to get on the right side of history.
To put that into perspective, Texas’s Legislature is comprised of 31 Senators and 150 Representatives. 375 activists coming to the capitol at once in support of cannabis reform is a very significant thing.
Texas cannabis activists’ efforts are paying off
Efforts to reform cannabis laws in Texas have not been easy and have taken a lot of determination, sacrifice, effort, and patience, but the years of activism on the ground is changing minds.
A University of Texas/Texas Tribune Poll found a whopping 83% level of support for legalizing cannabis ‘for some use.’
A majority of poll participants stated that they would support full legalization of cannabis for adult use. 53% of polled Texans support legalization.
Just two years ago the poll found that 24% of participants opposed cannabis reform in any way (it was 17% this year) and only 34% supported medical cannabis legalization.
That is a significant turnaround in just two years, and while part of it is due to reform successes in other areas, most of the credit is due to the efforts of cannabis activists on the ground level in Texas. Their efforts are amazing.
Medical and decriminalization measures introduced in the Texas legislature
According to NORML’s Action Center, there are currently two bills that have been introduced to the Texas Legislature this session.
Texas House Bill 81 would amend state law so that possessing up to one ounce of cannabis would be a civil violation instead of a crime.
I dug up some statistics from 2015 which found that more than half of drug arrests in Texas were for cannabis, 97% of which were for possession of less than two ounces. House Bill 81 would be huge for Texas.
Texas Senate Bill 269, would expand Texas’s medical cannabis laws. Texas currently has a CBD-specific law on the books, but it is extremely limited. Senate Bill 269 would provide for safe access for many more patients compared to what is currently in place.
Both of these bills have a great chance of passing if they get enough support, which is where Texas cannabis consumers can help.
What you can do to help
Be polite when you contact them and stay on point. Cannabis reform can be an emotional thing for many, which is understandable, but you have to be focused because time is limited when you are talking to a legislator.
If you don’t live in Texas, you can still support efforts by contributing to Texas cannabis activism efforts. NORML has a number of chapters in Texas, all of which could use donations to help with their efforts.
Activists in Texas should be proud of the impact they have been making. The Green Flower team salutes you!