Will Texas legalize marijuana for full medical or adult use recreational in 2023?
- Since 2015, Texas has been slowly but surely expanding its low-THC medical cannabis program.
- In 2021 Texas expanded its list of qualifying conditions for a cannabis certification and upped THC limits. Not much has happened since.
- Florida has been setting the pace for the Southeastern U.S. with its full-fledged medical marijuana program.
- Advocates expect Texas to continue to improve its medical marijuana program and possibly legalize or decriminalize the recreational use of marijuana in 2023.
It’s no secret that Texas is a traditionally conservative state, and that can be a good thing depending on the details. In the past couple of decades, however, Texas has been slowly drifting more towards the middle of the road. The drift is no more apparent than in voters’ attitudes toward Texas marijuana laws.
2022 was a go nowhere year for Texas cannabis legalization. The vast majority of Texans now support the state’s medical marijuana program. Moreover, as of the latest numbers, a supermajority now sees the wisdom in legalizing recreational marijuana.
Texas upgrades its medical marijuana program
In 2015, Texas legalized the use of low-THC CBD oil for treating intractable epilepsy. The program was made all but moot when the state legalized the production and sale of hemp-derived CBD oil in 2019. Today anyone in Texas can buy CBD online without the need for a medical marijuana card. But in order to be legal, CBD oil must contain less than 0.3% THC — the intoxicating cannabinoid produced in cannabis’ resinous flower clusters.
Over the past few years, lawmakers in Texas have been slowly but surely advancing toward a full-fledged medical marijuana program. Just recently, the state upped its THC limit from 0.5% to 1.0% max. THC.
Legislators have also expanded the list of qualifying conditions making far more patients eligible to get access to medical marijuana in Texas. Initially, only a handful of patients suffering with intractable epilepsy were eligible for a medical marijuana certification. Today, patients with a range of medical conditions including all forms of cancer, PTSD, most neurological conditions, and chronic pain are able to shop at Texas dispensaries.
The additional measure of THC in conjunction with CBD might seem like a small incremental improvement. However, microdosing with THC — consuming dosages of 0.5 milligrams THC or less per day — can play a significant role in providing additional pain relief, reducing seizures and muscle spasms, allaying anxiety, and improving mood.
It’s important to note that THC’s effects reside mainly in the brain. The effects of CBD, on the other hand, are more systemic. CBD is known for its ability to stimulate cannabinoid receptors throughout the human body. For many patients, CBD relaxes muscles and reduces inflammation locally. These effects generally produce a corresponding reduction in pain.
THC, on the other hand, works not only to reduce inflammation but also to tame pain signaling and response in the brain and nervous system. One might think of it like this: CBD works on the hardware (major organs and immune system) while THC works on the software of the human body (mainly the brain).
And while at sufficient dosages THC is known to produce feelings of anxiety and even paranoia, CBD is renowned for its ability to dampen these effects and to reduce anxiety. Moreover, both CBD and THC are proven to reduce seizures in some patients.
Medical marijuana doctors in Texas are upbeat about the improvements to the program. However, legal medical marijuana products contain, at most, only 0.7% more THC than does legal CBD oil. As such, many feel the state has a ways to go before it can boast of a legitimate medical marijuana program. Advocates and patients alike are quite optimistic, however, that improvements will continue in 2023.
Florida sets the pace for Southern states’ MMJ programs
As another large Southern state with a robust medical marijuana program, Florida offers a perfect roadmap for Texas to follow. Florida, too, started out with a highly restrictive, low-THC program available only to patients whose condition has been deemed terminal. Then in 2017 voters approved a ballot initiative that elevated the state to full medical marijuana status via a constitutional amendment.
Florida medical marijuana laws impose no limits on delivery methods or THC levels (although lawmakers have tried to impose such limits). The state has built up a comprehensive list of qualifying medical conditions. However, with the latest upgrade doctors, not politicians, now have the right to decide if a patient is eligible for a Florida medical marijuana card.
Today, the Sunshine State has issued a staggering half-million medical marijuana cards. Compare that to less than 5,000 medical marijuana patients in Texas as of late 2021 — a mere 1% of Florida’s patient count. As the state opens up its program and makes its MMJ rules less restrictive, those numbers are sure to rise dramatically.
Will Texas legalize recreational marijuana in 2023?
Cannabis advocates in both Florida and Texas are racing to legalize or decriminalize the possession of marijuana and cannabis concentrates. The books in both states are still full of draconian marijuana laws that impose strict penalties for marijuana possession including lengthy prison sentences. (Several cities in Florida have decriminalized marijuana removing criminal charges and replacing them with fines.)
Floridian cannabis advocates are working hard to gather signatures to legalize adult use of recreational marijuana in the Sunshine State, however Reciprocity for Out of Stater Medcards may come sooner. SIGN PETITION HERE. However, there has been much resistance in the legislature to such a move. It’s entirely possible that Texas might even beat Florida to the punch if enough money and clout can come together to push recreational marijuana laws through.
Several bills promoting cannabis policy reforms have failed to make it to the desk of Gov. Greg Abbott. However, Texas state Rep. Joe Moody stated recently that it’s “no secret that we are heading into some rough economic waters and we need to explore every possible revenue stream.” He went on to say legalization could potentially “add hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue, if not billions” to the state’s coffers. Vicente Sederberg LLP, a prominent cannabis law firm, estimates the state could rake in more than $1 billion per biennium.
One measure being considered, the “Real Solutions Act,” proposes a 10 percent tax on legalized cannabis products. Moreover, legalizing recreational marijuana in Texas could save the state millions of dollars in legal and penal costs while creating up to 30,000 well-paying jobs for Texans.
At least 13 pieces of medical and recreational cannabis legalization and decriminalization legislation were considered during the 2021 legislative sessions. And more are sure to follow.
Additionally, it shouldn’t be difficult for advocates to collect the signatures needed to get a recreational marijuana initiative on the 2023 ballot in Texas. A super-majority of Texans, including a small majority of conservative voters, is now in favor of legalizing marijuana altogether.
For now, thousands of Texans are benefiting from the state’s low-THC medical marijuana program and hundreds of thousands more are benefiting from legal hemp-derived CBD oil and the future looks bright for all cannabis consumers in Texas. It’s only a matter of time before the legislature catches up to the will of Texas voters.
Sources and additional reading
- 9 out of 10 Texas voters support some form of marijuana legalization, new survey shows
- Medical marijuana in Florida
- Republican Backed Bill Aims To Federally Legalize Marijuana
- Effects And Benefits Of Cannabidiol
- Will Mexico Legalize Cannabis in 2023?
- Texas Medical Marijuana Bill Ads PTSD and All Cancers to Compassionate Care Use Act