Time Runs Out on Marijuana Reform Bills in Texas

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A bill can be killed in a number of ways—obstruction, feet dragging, amendments, procedural snags or getting talked to death in a filibuster, to name a few.

In the case of Texas’ medical marijuana and decriminalization bills, even though they both had enough support to pass, they never even came up for a vote before time ran out last Thursday night at midnight.

What happened?

A midnight deadline passed without the full House even taking up proposed House Bill 81 for consideration. The bill would have essentially decriminalized the possession of small amounts of marijuana, reducing penalties to below that of most traffic tickets.

House Bill 2017, which would have legalized medical marijuana, met the same fate due to the House’s jam-packed calendar.

So now, both bills are dead in the water as stand-alone legislation.

However, the fact that they got as far as they did is historic.

Having made it out of committee, these two bills advanced further than any other high-profile marijuana-related bill in Texas by simply making it on to the calendar in the full House of Representatives.

State Reps. Joe Moody and Jason Isaac, lead sponsors of HB 81, had warned earlier in the week that it was unlikely the House would get to the decriminalization bill by the midnight deadline.

The legislators said they planned to look for ways in the final two weeks of the legislative session to resurrect it, such as by tacking it on as an amendment to another bill.

We can only hope the do because the next opportunity to pass this legislation won’t be until 2019—when the Texas legislature meets again.

Texans are disappointed to say the least.

A group called Mothers Advocating Medical Marijuana for Autism (MAMMA) spent hours meeting with staffers and legislators this past month, successfully garnering support for medical cannabis. Nothing had been posted on their Facebook page at the time of this writing, but they are sure to be upset.

Veterans also visited the capitol and gave a press conference urging lawmakers to pass the medical marijuana bill.

Jax Finkel, executive director of Texas NORML, lobbied at the capitol for the entire session to help see the MMJ bill through.

“While it may not feel like it in the moment, we have actually experienced some wins in Texas,” Finkel wrote in a letter to disappointed MMJ patients and supporters.

“We have our first ever official vote for whole plant cannabis access,” he said. “We had a record setting 70 plus legislators, which included 28 Republicans and 4 of the 5 doctors in the House. And importantly, we have made this a substantive campaign topic. This is monumental groundwork that we must take full advantage of in the upcoming cycle. We must be ever diligent.”

Various polls taken in recent years show support for medical marijuana among Texans is above 70 percent, and over 80 percent nationally.

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