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Texas cannabis bills fail to make the floor but see progress

Activists worked hard to pass two cannabis related bills during the 2013 Texas legislative session.
Activists worked hard to pass two cannabis related bills during the 2013 Texas legislative session.

Cannabis activists were in full swing during the 2013 Texas Legislative Session, working to get two cannabis related bills noticed and ultimately passed.

They made it a point to visit every legislator and do their best to inform them on the subject and lobby for the bills to be passed.

The first bill, HB 184 introduced by Rep. Harold Dutton, would have reduced penalties for the possession of one ounce or less to a $500 fine with no jail time. Click here to see the text of the bill.

Amendments to the bill changed the wording so that it would only go into effect for those under 21 who have no prior related conviction and successfully completes a drug abuse awareness and education program approved by the Department of State Health Services.

It would ultimately pass out of the Criminal Jurisprudence Committee by a vote of 6-3 but would fail to see its way to the floor due to the Calendar Committee not scheduling the bill for a hearing.

Representatives on the committee included Abel Herrero, Lon Burnam, Terry Canales, Joe Moody, Stefani Carter, Bryan Hughes, Jeff Leach, Matt Schaefer and Steve Toth.

Reps. Herrero, Carter and Leach all voted against the bill.

A recent Reason-Rupe poll found that only 6% of Americans believe people should be jailed for possession of marijuana.

Seeking to help those who consume cannabis for medical purposes, HB 594, introduced by Rep. Elliott Naishtat would have given patients an affirmative medical defense which could be used in court. Click here to see the text of the bill.

Currently those who are prosecuted for possession are not allowed to claim in court that they use cannabis in a medical capacity.

This bill died in the Public Health committee, even though according to a recent survey in the New England Journal of Medicine, 76% would approve the use of marijuana as treatment for medical issues.

Committee members included Elliott Naishtat, Garnet Coleman, Nicole Collier, Philip Cortez, Robert Guerra, Lois Kolkhorst, Sarah Davis, Susan King, Jodie Laubenberg, J.D. Sheffield and Bill Zedler.

Texas NORML Director Cheyanne Weldon, one of many at the forefront of working with legislators on the bill stated “This past legislative session, these two bills made as much progress as ever in their decade long history. Conversations with lawmakers and the public is becoming more serious, bipartisan, and more and more often, regarding HOW to implement policy changes, not IF we will.”

She continued “We are quickly learning that we can affect change by understanding and working within the system and WITH our legislators to educate and encourage them to take a stand with us.”

Activists will try again to get similar bills passed through in the 2015 session. The success of this effort largely depends on how the elections in 2014 go and how many people turn out to support the bills. If you plan to vote for a Democrat or Republican, get out and vote in the primaries where you can have the greatest affect on who will be running in the general election.

By: Stephen Carter
Stephen can be reached by email at TXCann@gmail.com

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Stephen Carter

Stephen Carter is a journalist and information technology specialist living in Waco, Texas. He has been working with the cannabis movement since 2009. He founded Texas Cannabis Report in 2013 to bring Texans accurate cannabis related news.

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