Texas has several medical marijuana dispensaries, but the legislature is considering a bill to make recreational use legal. But what’s going on might be confusing if you’re not around these parts and don’t know much about Texas politics. So let us explain.
Several states have considered making weed more accessible for adults to buy and smoke legally in recent years. The states with such legislation are usually those where cannabis has long been used as medicine or an alternative treatment method by people who need it. These places include California, Nevada, Washington State, Maine, Massachusetts, Vermont, Arizona, and Florida.
Texas isn’t one of them yet — at least not entirely. However, like in other states, officials consider pot legalization inevitable sooner rather than later. And right now, they’re trying to pass a law allowing Texan residents over 21 to possess up to 4 ounces of dried plants and edibles and grow them in small amounts. This measure could also create a system similar to alcohol sales taxes collected in Colorado and Oregon if passed.
Even though we can all agree that Texans should have access to legalized cannabis consumption, there are still many questions surrounding how this change will happen and whether lawmakers will get enough votes to pass it into law.
For starters, why does anyone care so much about legalizing marijuana? As I said earlier, most states already have laws allowing doctors to prescribe medicinal cannabis products to patients suffering from certain conditions.
In 2016, nearly half of U.S. voters chose to legalize possession and cultivation for personal use among its citizens. This means that weed is no longer considered illegal, immoral, or dangerous. Instead, it’s seen as another product available for purchase and sale, just like any other consumer good.
Many studies show that weed may help treat health problems ranging from anxiety to chronic pain. Plus, the FDA doesn’t regulate marijuana-based treatments, which makes it easier for companies to market and advertise their wares without fear of being shut down for false advertising claims.
Despite having a few dispensaries throughout the city, Houstonians won’t see any commercialized retail marijuana stores open until 2017. The City Council must vote once again before anything gets off the ground. However, if things go smoothly during the next council meeting, expect to see two new “pot shops” pop up downtown soon.
Since laws keep changing rapidly, making things a bit confusing sometimes, check out our friends at DISA to see a complete map of every state. They have information on what is legal, medical use, recreational use, and everything else.
Medical Marijuana In Texas
You’ve probably heard of the Compassionate Care Foundation if you live anywhere near Austin. CCF founded the first dispensary in 2008, when only four cities allowed dispensaries to exist within their borders. Nowadays, CCF operates five locations in the capital city alone. All told, the foundation serves roughly 1,000 residents per month.
Houston’s city government doesn’t seem too interested in pursuing the idea of setting up a medical marijuana program anytime soon. For example, last year, Mayor Annise Parker expressed opposition to Prop 19, saying she didn’t think marijuana was worth taxing.
On top of that, Harris County District Attorney Mike McLelland wants to keep his office’s hands clean regarding regulating medical marijuana businesses. He says he’ll support Prop 19 after clarifying state regulations regarding distribution and taxation.
As far as his stance goes, he believes that criminalizing marijuana possession is necessary since nobody knows how big the black market is [sources: Fox News, KUTX].
Of course, not everyone shares the same viewpoint. Some politicians believe that medical marijuana is a great thing for society overall. Republican Rep. Dan Crenshaw is one of them, whose district includes part of Midland.
He recently spoke against Prop 19, saying that while he understands the concerns of police officers, prosecutors, and others, marijuana prohibition is simply ineffective. His reasoning behind this claim is that since marijuana is a Schedule II drug under federal law, prosecuting users is difficult. Also, according to him, many users consume less of the substance due to higher prices.
Crenshaw thinks that medical marijuana helps fund addiction programs instead of feeding into them. Lastly, he points to research done in countries like Portugal and Spain that both decriminalize marijuana use, claiming that these nations’ populations have lower rates of addiction and incarceration than Americans. He feels that medical marijuana shouldn’t be treated differently from any medication.
While Crenshaw may feel strongly about this issue, he hasn’t always supported medical marijuana initiatives. According to reports, he voted against a 2015 proposal to create statewide protections for medical marijuana providers. Fortunately, he changed his mind and agreed to sponsor SB 535, allowing physicians to write prescriptions for cannabis oil containing CBD.
Another lawmaker with ties to Midland, Republican Sen. John Carona Jr., likes to say that marijuana is safer than alcohol. In 2014, he introduced Senate Bill 717, which sought to reduce penalties for low-level marijuana convictions.
At the time, Carona claimed that marijuana arrests were leading countless young lives away from college and career opportunities, causing permanent damage to families and communities. S717 would have made simple misdemeanor charges punishable by a maximum $500 fine, community service, or 12 months probation to combat this problem. However, once enacted, this measure wouldn’t affect anyone convicted of a felony offense involving marijuana.
Unfortunately, Carona lost his seat in the House in November 2016. Since he wasn’t reelected, he couldn’t carry forward with his reform plans. Even though Carona introduced a couple of bills related to the subject matter, none passed. Regardless, he certainly left a lasting impression on voters in his hometown.
Recreational Weed In Texas?
Since recreational marijuana isn’t technically legal in Texas, it’s hard to call someone a stoner if they admit to smoking it. Still, it seems pretty clear that Texans wish the state legislature would approve Prop 19 so that weed becomes fully regulated and taxed. Unfortunately, although Texas residents want to start using some marijuana, it’s unlikely that legislators will take action until 2018.
The process will involve drafting a ballot referendum when they finally decide to move ahead. Afterward, proponents will have to collect almost 400,000 signatures to put Prop 19 on the ballot. Then, supporters must convince a majority of voters to back the initiative. They’d better hurry up because the 2020 presidential election primaries begin early.
On Aug. 3, 2016, former GOP candidate Donald Trump announced that he supports Prop 19. But, unfortunately, Hillary Clinton opposes the proposition, meaning she’ll likely win the Democratic nomination come November.
Of course, Trump isn’t the only politician supporting Prop 19. Several Republicans, including Sens. Ted Cruz and Jeff Sessions, also voiced their opinions. Meanwhile, Democrats like Reps. Eddie Bernice Johnson and Sheila Jackson Lee vehemently oppose Prop 19 and continue to lobby against it.
Even though most Texans agree that marijuana legalization is inevitable, there are still many unknowns surrounding Prop 19. Will it become a reality? Only time will tell.
When it comes to marijuana legalization, Prop 19 is very different from other propositions in recent history, mostly thanks to its relatively high tax rate. Under the terms of the initiative, a person caught smoking 20 grams of marijuana (which equals approximately six joints) can face fines between $100 and $200, depending on their age.
Those older than 65 can receive harsher punishments. People found guilty of possessing more significant quantities of weed can pay hundreds of dollars extra for each ounce confiscated. Additionally, anyone arrested for driving under the influence of pot can expect to pay upwards of $1,000 for various fees associated with their arrest.
Finally, Prop 19 calls for creating a Cannabis Advisory Board comprised of representatives from academia, law enforcement agencies, social services organizations, religious groups, public safety associations, and patient advocacy groups. Members hope that this board will guide the implementation of the proposed law.
According to polls, 60 percent of registered voters favor Prop 19. Interestingly, the rest either oppose it outright or are undecided. Another interesting tidbit is that if Prop 19 passes, the price of a pack of cigarettes could rise. Why?
Because smokers often roll their purchases to avoid detection. With more people buying nicotine products illegally, tobacco manufacturers will raise cigarette prices to cover production costs. Then, perhaps, future generations of marijuana consumers will enjoy cheaper smokes!
How To Vote (And What It Means)
Now that you understand what’s happening in your hometown, you can focus on voting. Here are the steps involved in casting a ballot. First, visit your county voter registration website (most are online). You’ll find information about your current address, party affiliation, and registration contact info. Next, fill out the application provided by your political organization.
Last, look through the list of candidates running for office in your area and choose those you want to endorse. Make sure you select your party preference and check the box beside whichever one best matches your feelings toward the issues discussed in this article.
Finally, click submit if everything checks out, and mail your completed forms and proof of identification. Failure to return your ballot on time will automatically be counted towards the next general election cycle.