Texas is known for being staunchly conservative, but 2017 is shaping up to be a major year for cannabis reform in the Lone Star State. There are multiple bills circulating through the state legislative sessions, including House Bill 81, a measure that would decriminalize the possession of up to an ounce of marijuana. There’s also a push to expand the Texas Compassionate Use Program, an extremely limited medical marijuana system that currently only allows low-THC cannabis use for intractable epilepsy treatment.
At first glance, highly-conservative Texas doesn’t seem like the proper breeding ground for cannabis advocacy, but organizations like NORML Texas and the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP) are paving the way to a greener future. With the state government in the midst of the 85th Texas Legislative session, which adjourns on May 29, cannabis advocates are using this small window of opportunity to push for as much change as possible.
According to Heather Fazio, the Texas Political Director at MPP, advocates are primarily focused on House Bill 81, taking an incremental approach that will lead to more expansive legalization in the future.
“First and foremost, our main priority is reducing penalties for low-level possession,” Fazio says. “We want to see a civil penalty instituted for possession under one ounce. What that means for Texas is reforming the current penalty, which is up to six months in jail, $2,000 in fines, and worst of all, the lifelong conviction that comes for even the tiniest amount of marijuana. When you have a