These Cannabis Bills Could Change Toking in Texas for Good
Remember the first time you met that good old bill, who was just sitting on Capitol Hill? Yep, Schoolhouse Rock was the learning bomb, and it knew just how to explain complicated subjects with catchy little songs like "Conjunction Junction" and "Mother Necessity."
Well, those Schoolhouse Rockers may want to add a new cannabis-themed ditty to their repertoire, given all of the recent marijuana bills inundating lawmakers across the nation. But if we may, we would like to suggest that this time, rather than the little bill sitting on Capitol Hill, the tune should take place in Texas.
After all, three new marijuana reform bills are being drafted under Marijuana Policy Project's multi-year legislative campaign in Texas. The first bill is aimed at decriminalization of marijuana in Texas, but MPP is hardly stopping there.
Rather, the three bills are stepping stones to the full monty, covering not only decriminalization but medical and recreational marijuana as well, which leaves all facets of legalization on the table for lawmakers to decide in the next legislative session.
According to Heather Fazio, Texas political director for Marijuana Policy Project, the group will be pre-filing the three bills in November, in anticipation of the 84th Texas Legislative Session, which kicks off in January.
"We are working with a diverse coalition to introduce a civil penalty bill which [would] make small possession punishable by a simple fine rather than a criminal charge," says Fazio.
"This means no opportunity for jail time, and none of the collateral sanctions which come along with a criminal drug arrest. These collateral sanctions include limited access to resources for education, housing, employment, etc. It will also help to break down the stigma which goes along with being arrested and jailed for the possession of this plant."
"We will [also] be introducing a bill to create a legal market for marijuana, similar to alcohol, for responsible adults who are 21 and over," says Fazio.
With the pre-filing only a month away, it's important to understand the proposed policy changes for the Lone Star State. Here is an overview of the three bills that could change toking in Texas for good.
Civil Penalty Bill Citing Texans' overwhelming support of reduced marijuana penalties, as well as the success that other states have had with decriminalization, Marijuana Policy Project has drafted a bill to change the civil penalties for marijuana possession in Texas.
This bill offers the least amount of alteration in the marijuana laws already in place, and would not "legalize" marijuana. It would, however, somewhat decriminalize small amounts of weed and lower the penalties you could face for simple possession charges.
While possession of marijuana in amounts of one ounce or less would remain illegal under the Civil Penalty Bill, the real difference would be in the penalties you'd see for your illicit pothead activities. For possession of cannabis in amounts under one ounce, the bill proposes that:
- There would be no arrest or jail time, and the offense would not result in a criminal record.
- There would be a civil fine, but only up to $100, which is significantly lower than previous fines for possession.
- There would be no effect on future employment prospects, housing, or educational opportunities for minor possession.
Medical Marijuana Bill Nearly half of the states in the U.S. have workable laws that protect medical marijuana patients from criminal penalties, and over half of the voters in Texas -- 58 percent -- support the passage of medical marijuana laws in our state. MPP cites those facts, along with the medical community's recognition of marijuana's benefits, as some of the reasoning behind the Medical Marijuana Bill.
Under this bill, it is proposed that:
- Medical patients with proper authorization from their doctors will not be arrested or penalized for possessing up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana, nor will they be penalized for growing weed in a secure location. Patients must be diagnosed with one of the specific debilitating medical conditions listed under the guidelines to qualify.
- Physicians also cannot be punished for suggesting that a medical patient use cannabis for the alleviation of their symptoms, which is of real concern for doctors in Texas under the current laws.
- Under specific guidelines, medical marijuana businesses -- more commonly known as dispensaries -- would be allowed to cultivate and sell medicinal pot to patients, which would remove the criminal elements of obtaining marijuana by medical patients.
- Medical marijuana would be tested, labeled for potency, and free from harmful contaminants.
- There would also be a clause to allow seriously ill patients to designate a caregiver to obtain medical marijuana from authorized sources, since there is a concern about traveling by some medical patients.
And finally, the legalization bill.
Free Market -- or Tax and Regulate -- in Texas Citing a plethora of reasons for a free marijuana market in Texas -- marijuana's safety, especially in comparison to alcohol; voter support for legalization; cartel stranglehold on marijuana; prohibition failure -- while listing the practical benefits, MPP is also planning to propose a full-on legalization bill in the Lone Star State.
Under the proposed Free Market bill, the proposed changes would be that:
- Marijuana would be treated much like other adult substances -- alcohol, for instance -- and the sale of the plant would be taxed and regulated, with adults 21 and over being granted access.
- Much like Colorado and Washington, Texas would allow for retail businesses, grow houses (or cultivation centers, if you're fancy like that) and testing labs, which is already pretty much par for the course with anything consumable.
- Everything would be licensed and regulated, and local government would be granted the ability to establish their own regulations.
- Driving under the influence would remain illegal, and no employer would be forced to okay intoxication.
And, according to MPP, which cites the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration and RAND Corporation data, should the 1,267,200 Texas residents who already use marijuana each month continue to do so, with the average user consuming the 100 grams per year, at a tax of $50 per ounce, the state of Texas would stand to make between $150,971,063 and $264,199,294 in tax revenue annually.
That's a lot of weed money, y'all.