Where the 11 marijuana bills in Texas currently stand
There are 11 bills related to marijuana currently in the Texas legislature.
Of those, five pertain to medical cannabis, five pertain to decreasing the penalties for simple possession, and one which changes the nature of arrests for marijuana.
Both HB 892 and SB 339 are identical and legalize medical marijuana in a limited fashion, allowing only strains which contain very little THC, the compound which produces a high. If passed, the bill would go into effect in 2017 by the Department of Public Safety.
HB 892 is currently waiting to be scheduled for a hearing in the House Public Health Committee. SB 339 is similarly waiting for a hearing in the Senate. It was originally referred to the State Affairs Committee, but was recently rereffered to the Health and Human Services Committee.
The other medical marijuana legalization bills are HB 3785 and SB 1839, both of which are identical as well. These bills would fully legalize medical marijuana for use by those with seizures, severe pain, and multiple other conditions. If passed, the program would be implemented in 2016 by the Department of Health and Human Services.
HB 3785 and SB 1839 are both waiting to be scheduled for a hearing in their respective committees.
The final piece of medical marijuana leislation is HB 837, which would give patients an affirmative defense in court should they be arrested for marijuana. This bill would enable to them to tell jurors that they consume marijuana for medicinal purposes. Currently defendants can be found in contempt of court if they attempt to tell jurors about their medical use of cannabis.
HB 837 has been referred to the Public Health committee and is currently waiting to be scheduled for a hearing.
Three of the medical marijuana bills, HB 827, HB 892, and HB 3785 have been heard in committee on Tuesday, April 28.
Four of the bills pertaining to marijuana penalty reductions are similar.
Both HB 507 and SB 1417 are identical and would set a maximum fine of $250 for possession of an ounce or less, and would require community service and drug education classes.
HB 414 would make less than an ounce of marijuana a Class C misdemeanor, meaning that it would be a ticket only offense. The judge presiding over the case could also require completion of a drug abuse program as well, and after completion and payment of fine, there would be no record. Getting a ticket for the same offense more than three times in a 24 month period would result in the charge going back to a Class B misdemeanor.
HB 325 would make less than 10 grams a ticketable offense with no arrest, carrying a penalty of a $150 fine, a drug class, and community service.
House Bills 325, 414, and 507 have been voted down in committee, though they could be revived.
With the exception of SB 1417, all three of these bills were heard in the Criminal Jurisprudence Committee this past week and testimony was given both for and against them. At this point, they remain in committee and waiting to be voted on by committee members.
SB 1417 has been referred to the Criminal Justice Committee in the senate and is waiting to be scheduled for a hearing.
The final piece of penalty reduction legislation is HB 2165, which would remove all penalties for marijuana possession in Texas, while still providing a penalty for selling marijuana to minors.
This bill was heard in the Criminal Jurisprudence Committee this past week and testimony was given both for and against it. It remains in committee and is waiting to be voted on by committee members.
All of the penalty reductions bills were heard the same night, and over 60 people showed up to testify on them.
The last piece of marijuana legislation, HB 1115 would not decrease the penalties for possession, but would change how arrests are handled for some people. Possession of less than four ounces of marijuana would not result in an immediate arrest, and instead a summons would be given to appear in court if the person resides in the county in which they are found to be in possession.
HB 1115 has been referred to the Criminal Jurisprudence Committee, and is currently waiting to be scheduled for a hearing.
By: Stephen Carter
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