AUSTIN — Attempts to liberalize the state’s drug laws failed to make much headway at the Capitol, and advocates for looser restrictions on pot are lamenting one effort that seemed to succeed in allowing for medical use of cannabis.
Two key proposals stalled in a House committee for four weeks.
One made it a civil infraction, not a crime, to possess up to an ounce of marijuana. The other essentially ended Texas’ decades-old marijuana prohibition. Neither made it to the full House for a vote.
“It is unfortunate that it played out the way it did,” said Heather Fazio, Texas political director for the Marijuana Policy Project. “It really killed our momentum.”
Supporters hope to attach a last-minute amendment, preserving some of those ideas, to an existing bill, she said.
“So the curtain isn’t exactly closed,” she said.
One cannabis-related proposal that did win House and Senate approval is problematic, however.
That measure allows patients with intractable seizures to use a marijuana extract containing high levels of cannabidiol, which is said to treat patients with severe seizures.
But the bill, now headed to Gov. Greg Abbott’s desk, provides that doctors may “prescribe” the extract to patients. Almost two dozen states allow physicians to legally “recommend” or “certify” medical marijuana use. Prescribing it violates federal law, said Fazio.
“On a certain level, the Legislature should be commended for acknowledging the medical value of marijuana, and it is an historic vote in that sense,” she said.
“Lawmakers missed several opportunities to amend the bill in ways that could have provided real relief to countless Texans. Not a single patient will be helped by this legislation,” she said.
Lawmakers considered the marijuana measures as opinion polls show broadening support for legalized marijuana for medical and recreational use.
Eighty-one percent of Americans favor legalizing marijuana for medicinal uses, according to the Harris Poll released this month. Forty-nine percent support legalizing it for recreational use.
John Austin covers the Texas Statehouse for CNHI. Contact him at [email protected]
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