By: Elijah Mallet
Texas Republican lawmakers have endorsed decriminalization of marijuana. The state up to this point has had a program that allows for cannabis use under the Compassionate Use Act in 2015. However, this bill only provides for the purpose of low-THC strains of cannabis to treat intractable epilepsy–and so, consequently, cannot be used for all the other myriad of illnesses cannabis has been known to treat.
Nevertheless, that is presumably set to change in Texas’ relative future. Texas’ Republican party now wants to replace possession of an ounce or less of marijuana with a civil penalty of $100 or less; and no jail time. Currently, possessing under four ounces of marijuana is a Class B misdemeanor in Texas punishable by up to 6 months in jail and a $2,000 fine.
In addition to this change, Texas Republican lawmakers also want to update the Compassionate Use Act to allow doctors to determine cannabis use for their patients. They have also suggested that the federal government drop cannabis from a schedule 1 to a schedule 2 drug. Lastly, Texas Republicans have recognized the benefits of hemp agriculture and would like to form their industrial hemp program.
Comparatively, Colorado first introduced medical cannabis on the ballot in 2000. By 2001, they had a makeshift medical program under amendment 20, which lasted till 2008. Recreational use wasn’t allowed until 2012, then was legalized in the state alongside Washington. Compare that to Nevada, where it was medically legal in July of 2015 and already recreational in 2 years, in July of 2017. Assuming Texas follows this same pattern, we should see recreational cannabis legalized within the next 2 – 3 years.
The most impactful change in Texas will be the program to begin cultivation of hemp. As is often said, the cannabis sector is worth billions, but the hemp industry is worth trillions. The saying is a reference to the difference in potential between the bud of a cannabis plant and the remaining stock, stem, and leaves that for the most part go unused. The impact that hemp will one day have on the world, and particularly the United States, will radically change our way of life. From clothing to nutrition, to biofuel, to construction–you name it. Texas lawmakers have made the right call to start their industrial hemp program and take advantage of all the benefits of the hemp plant.
While it is fantastic that the Elephant party has finally decided to make reformations in Texas with regards to the cannabis industry, there is always more to be done. For starters, it is silly for marijuana even to be considered a civil crime. Either marijuana should be legalized altogether, or consistency says Texas should apply that $100 fine to those who possess alcohol also. Second, while it is a good start to move cannabis down in its drug scheduling, it still wouldn’t make sense to have marijuana as a schedule 2 drug. The DEA defines a schedule 2 drug as, “Drugs, substances, or chemicals with a high potential for abuse, with use potentially leading to severe psychological or physical dependence. These drugs are also considered dangerous.” Moreover, then they go on with schedule 2 drug examples such as methamphetamine and oxycodone. The differences between cannabis and actual schedule 2 drugs can’t be overstated. Nevertheless, the push for country wide legalization is headed in the right direction. In recent days, president Trump has reinforced the cannabis legalization narrative by reiterating his support of the removal of federal bans on cannabis.
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