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Texas Lawmakers and Activists Vow to Expand State’s Marijuana Laws in 2017

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After the DEA’s decision last week not to reschedule cannabis, marijuana reform activists and state lawmakers in Texas say that they’re focused on changing state pot policy in the next legislative session.

According to the San Antonio Current, Heather Fazio, the Texas political director for the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP), said that starting January 2017, activists have two main goals—expanding Texas’ limited and ineffective medical marijuana program and lowering criminal penalties for simple possession.

Last year, Texas Governor Greg Abbott signed the Compassionate Use Act into law, which allows those suffering from epilepsy to get their hands on low-THC cannabis oil. However, the language of the legislation is flawed—requiring doctors to “prescribe” medical marijuana, rather than “recommend” or “certify.” This means that doctors could risk losing their license to prescribe other controlled substances if they start “prescribing” pot, effectively creating an inoperative system.

Fazio told the Current that the law is so limited that families are leaving the state to seek treatment elsewhere.

“There are families uprooting from Texas, where they want to live, because they can’t treat their children here,” Fazio said. “We think we can convince the Legislature that that shouldn’t be happening.”

Activists and lawmakers also want to see the drug expanded to treat more conditions, from PTSD to relief for cancer patients.

“If we are compassionate about people with epilepsy, then we should be compassionate about people with cancer, and cataracts and glaucoma and veterans who are being put on all kinds of opioids,” Democratic State Sen. Jose Menedez told Texas Public Radio. “It is senseless to me that the State of Texas thinks it knows better than people’s doctors.”

Menedez said that plans to file a medical marijuana bill on the first day of early filing ahead of the 2017 legislative session.

In addition to fixing the state’s medical marijuana program, activists are also hoping to reduce criminal penalties for pot possession in Texas.

“We want to take away the threat of arrest, jail time, and most importantly that criminal record that comes along with a simple possession charge,” Fazio said.

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