Medical marijuana bill likely dead despite overwhelming support from legislators
Update as of 5/9/17 10:00 pm cst: HB 2107 is officially done for the 2017 legislative session. It was not scheduled for a hearing and vote by the Texas House.
Despite being co-sponsored by more than half of the Texas House of Representatives, a medical marijuana bill likely die without being debated or voted on.
HB 2107 would give numerous patients access to whole plant cannabis. After a long and emotional committee hearing last week, support for the bill among legislators surged. Out of the 150 representatives who comprise the House, 77 have signed on in support.
Getting the bill passed out of the Public Health Committee was a feat of its own. Despite personally opposing the bill, the chair still allowed a vote on the legislation knowing that it would pass. It wasn’t without concessions though, and some wonder if some of these concessions weren’t planned from the beginning by legislators while Texans were left in the dark.
During negotiations, patients lost the ability to grow their plants at home. Some decried such a move, saying that it places an undue burden on those who are unable to travel or financially afford to purchase from a dispensary.
Other clauses which were removed from the bill include “protection of parental rights for those using or administering medical cannabis; protects patients from being charged with paraphernalia; caps licensing fees at $5,000; allows patient or registered caregiver to grow a minimum of 6 plants in a secured location.” There was also a clause added which says cannabis must be must be administered by a means other than smoking.
These concessions were the price paid for gaining such a large number of co-sponsors.
After passing out of the committee, the bill slowly made its way to the Calendar Committee, which votes on whether or not to schedule bills to be heard by the full House. The committee still has a day to vote on allowing the bill to be scheduled, but it looks unlikely that will happen.
At one point during the day, Calendar Committee members’ offices were being overwhelmed with phone calls, and people were asked to stop calling so they could get work done. Instead, people have been emailing these members.
Support for the bill has been bipartisan. During the Texas GOP’s 2016 state convention, delegates voted in favor of supporting medical marijuana and it is now officially in the party’s platform. Republicans currently hold 95 seats in the House.
Another marijuana related bill, HB 81 which would reduce the penalty for possession of an ounce or less of marijuana to a $250 civil fine, will likely meet with the same fate, despite the chair of the Calendar Committee, Rep. Todd Hunter, voting in favor of the bill while it was in the Criminal Jurisprudence Committee. Activists working at the capitol have stated that Rep. Hunter gave his word that HB 81 would be scheduled.
Those showing up in opposition to the bills have been small in number, however they have consistently been members of large, influential organizations such as the Texas Sheriff’s Association, Texas Municipal Police Association, and the Texas Pain Society which is comprised of a number of pain management doctors.
The next chance for Texas to pass any legislation will be 2019 when the legislature meets again. They only meet every other year.
Given that 29 states have passed medical marijuana laws, and various polls showing more than 70 percent of Texans support having a medical cannabis program, Texas will be far behind the times once the next opportunity arrives.
Over the past several years many Texans have already moved to states where medical cannabis is available, others have died, while many have been unable to afford such a move.
Patients and caregivers were a constant sight at the state capitol this year, speaking with legislators about their concerns. Some wondered if they would live to see the next legislative session.
With one day left to go, people from around the state, along with officials with Texas NORML and Texans for Responsible Marijuana Policy will be making one final push on Tuesday, May 9 to get these bills scheduled. They plan to be at the capitol all day and are encouraging Texans to call their representatives, and reach out to members of the Calendars Committee through email and social media.