2017 Held a lot of promise for marijuana reform. Texans across the state and political spectrum flooded legislator’s offices and phones with a clear and concise message, “We want marijuana law reform now.” Unfortunately, as the session ended, it became clear that the Texas legislature was deaf to the voice of the Texas people.
The push for marijuana law reform during the 85th Texas Legislative session began back in 2016, when advocacy groups focused on laying the political groundwork for marijuana law reform. Advocacy groups worked hard to amend the Texas Republican Party platform to call for a complete overhaul of the Texas Compassionate use act of 2015, Texas’s anemic medical marijuana program. Advocates also hit the streets supporting and donating to pro marijuana reform candidates during the 2016 election cycle. As 2016 ended, the groundwork for real reform had been laid, and advocates across the state were optimistically looking forward to the 2017 legislative cycle.
Historic Momentum, and Partisan Stonewalling
However, as the 85th Texas Legislative session began, it became clear that marijuana law reform, even with its massive support from the Texas people, was not a priority for the Texas House Leadership. Lt. Governor Dan Patrick (R – Texas) prioritized hyper partisan legislation in the Texas Senate, effective killing the marijuana reform bills put forward by Democratic Senators who did not support his push for even further tort reform, bathroom bills, sanctuary city bans, and further unconstitutional abortion restrictions.
With the Senate bills effectively dead on arrival, it fell to the House to pass marijuana law reform. Unfortunately, the House leadership also stonewalled the marijuana law reform in their chamber. While Representative Joe Moody’s civil penalties bill (D – El Paso); a bill that would have effectively decriminalized minor marijuana possession, showed broad bipartisan support in the Texas Criminal Jurisprudence committee and was passed very early on the session, The House Calendars committee ultimately killed the bill by failing to ever schedule the bill for a vote until the last possible day. The civil penalties bill ultimately died before it could ever be heard on the floor of the house, as Democrats ran out the clock to block unconstitutional anti-abortion bills that had been scheduled to be heard before the civil penalties bill.
The push for medical marijuana reform met a similar fate. Representative Four Price (R – District 87) chairmen of the House Public Health committee failed to schedule the medical marijuana bill until the last two weeks of the session. This late hearing put the medical bill in a bad position with little time to be voted on in the Calendar committee to put the bill on the floor for a vote. Further, and perhaps most galling was what happened once the bill was finally voted on and passed on to the Calendars committee. Once the medical marijuana bill was passed by the Public Health committee, 78 House representatives signed onto the bill, effectively meaning the bill was guaranteed to pass if it made it to the House floor for a vote. However, on the last possible day, the Public Health Committee sent the Medical Marijuana Bill to the calendars committee, were the bill died as the deadline passed before the paperwork could be received.
The Texas Legislature’s Failure
With both reform bills dead before a vote, Texans will have to wait another year and a half before they have another chance to see real marijuana law reform come to the state. No reform has come to Texas, and no further legislative reform will happen until at least 2019. While some marijuana law reform has happened in certain Texas cities such as Houston, Dallas, Austin, and Round Rock, no state-wide reform has come to the state. Marijuana is still illegal, and Texans will still face some of the harshest penalties in the Nation for possession. Further, Texas’s Medical Marijuana program will fail to legally function meaning that even the small of number of Texan’s who should have had access to medical marijuana will be denied the lifesaving medicine their legislators promised to provide them. The Texas Legislature, and Texas Lt Governor have failed the Texan people by prioritizing hyper partisan legislation and political infighting over common sense reform.
Hopefully Texans will wake up to the reality that those politicians responsible for killing these vital reforms will only stop once they are voted out of office. Unfortunately, Texas is a Red State that values party loyalty over the actual substance of what politicians accomplish, thus it is unlikely that Texas will see any real marijuana law reform until the Republican leadership in the Senate, and the Lt. Governor position are changed. Until then, legal representation is till necessary to fight the gross injustice that is marijuana prohibition.
Written by Hunter White
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