Marijuana reform in Texas dies despite doing things right
Two marijuana bills which had momentum going into the final weeks of the 2017 Texas legislative session are officially dead, ending any hope for marijuana reform until the next legislative session in 2019.
HB 2107, which had 77 legislators from the Texas House of Representatives signed on in support, would have given patients limited access to whole plant medical marijuana. Due to the lateness in which it was scheduled for a hearing, the bill’s paperwork did not make it in time for the legislation to be scheduled for a hearing and vote by the full House.
HB 81, which had 40 legislators from the House signed on in support, would have made possession of an ounce or less of marijuana a $250 fine for the first three offenses, and then a Class C Misdemeanor for any further offenses. This bill made it out of committee with nearly a month to spare, however the Calendars Committee, which schedules all legislation for the full House, declined to place it on the agenda until the very last day.
A full 218 bills were expected to be heard on Thursday before HB 81 would have a chance at being voted on, the first time since 1973 a major marijuana reform bill would receive such an opportunity.
Had the House kept its pace, HB 81 would have been heard and voted on late in the night, but before the midnight deadline. However earlier in the day Democrats deployed stall tactics while abortion bills were up for debate. At another point, a group of Republicans called the Freedom Caucus employed similar tactics aimed at causing the death of a number of bills they didn’t like.
Ultimately this led to time running out, and the House never getting to vote on HB 81.
No other marijuana related legislation made it through committee.
Marijuana law reform in Texas died this year despite numerous groups including veterans, patients, mothers of autistic children, law enforcement, health professionals, activists, and others dedicating thousands of hours at the capitol working to secure support for both medical marijuana and penalty reductions. Numerous press conferences were held, the office of every legislator was visited on multiple occasions, meetings with every legislator or their staff were held, information was distributed, exhibits in the halls were set up for two weeks alerting people to the need for reform. Testimony from experts in favor of these bills were abundant at committee hearings. Over 30,000 emails and phone calls were made from Texans around the state. Television and radio ads were ran.
Opposition to these bills amounted to a handful of people including the Texas Sheriffs Association, Texas Municipal Police Association, rehab employees, and pain doctors; primarily those who stand to lose money from changing our laws.
By many accounts, the cannabis movement in Texas did everything they needed to progress their legislation this year.
What happens when you do everything right, secure majority support, not only from the voting population, but legislators themselves, and nothing gets done?
You look towards 2018, register to vote, find candidates who will advance marijuana reform legislation, campaign for them, donate to them, vote for them in the primaries, and vote for them in the general election. Nothing short of that will do the job.