Marijuana

Miguel Gutierrez Jr. / KUT

There’s been a lot of confusion about the difference between marijuana and hemp since Texas legalized the production and sale of hemp in June.

The short? Marijuana is still very much illegal at the state and national level. But the new law created a distinction that’s left some prosecutors in a bit of a pickle.

Texas State Trooper car
Shelby Knowles for The Texas Tribune

Texas’ largest law enforcement agency is moving away from arresting people for low-level marijuana offenses. It’s the latest development in the chaos that has surrounded pot prosecution after state lawmakers legalized hemp this year.

A man cuts a marijuana plant.
Marjorie Kamys Cotera for The Texas Tribune

Months before Texas district attorneys started dropping or delaying low-level marijuana cases, state lawmakers were told that a well-liked bill to legalize hemp was going to complicate pot prosecutions.

The warnings fell flat.

Marijuana
Katherine Hitt via Flickr

The state's top leaders are reminding prosecutors that marijuana is still illegal in Texas.

The letter from Gov. Greg Abbott, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, Texas House Speaker Dennis Bonnen and Attorney General Ken Paxton comes after district attorneys in major cities said they have effectively stopped prosecuting low-level marijuana possession cases since House Bill 1325 went into effect on June 10.

Travis County District Attorney Margaret Moore
Julia Reihs / KUT

Things have changed in the past year or so in how Travis County approaches some cases involving particular types and amounts of drugs. District Attorney Margaret Moore says the "criminal justice system is a very poor tool to use to address drug usage or substance abuse of any kind."

Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

Travis County District Attorney Margaret Moore said Wednesday her office is dismissing 32 felony cases involving possession or delivery of marijuana or THC, pending further investigation, as the result of a new Texas law legalizing hemp.

KUT

A new law that legalized hemp in Texas is creating a haze of confusion for authorities as most crime labs around the state can't do the testing to tell the difference between the cannabis plant and its illegal cousin, marijuana.

This week, the Tarrant County District Attorney’s office dismissed about 235 misdemeanor marijuana possession cases. It was an unusual move, and a response to changes in state law earlier this month.

The Food and Drug Administration is holding its first public hearing on CBD, the cannabis extract that has quickly grown into a billion-dollar industry. Today's hearing will help officials determine how to regulate CBD products.

The compound can be extracted from marijuana or from hemp. It's promoted as a way to ease anxiety and inflammation – and it doesn't get people high because it doesn't contain THC, the psychoactive component of the cannabis plant.

Marijuana on top of a Texas flag
KUT

Sixty-three bills related to marijuana or hemp were filed at the beginning of the 86th Texas legislative session in January. Four measures passed out of the House, including bills that would establish a hemp market in Texas, reduce penalties for low-level marijuana possession and expand the list of Texans who can access medical marijuana.

Marijuana plants
Marjorie Kamys Cotera for The Texas Tribune

After a brief discussion, the Texas House gave preliminary approval Monday to a bill that would reduce the penalties for low-level possession of marijuana — a move lauded as a win by those eager for the state to take its first major step toward loosening its staunch marijuana laws.

Juan Figueroa / The Texas Tribune

The Texas House on Tuesday gave broad preliminary approval to a bill that would allow farmers in the state to legally grow industrial hemp — a move lauded as a win for the state’s farmers.

Proponents of decriminalizing the possession of small amounts of marijuana say fewer tax dollars will be spent housing people in county jails for nonviolent crimes.
Callie Richmond for The Texas Tribune

Lawmakers of all political stripes were chomping at the bit this session to file — or sign onto — bills that would decriminalize or lessen the criminal penalties for Texans found with small amounts of marijuana.

KUT

Nine bills concerning marijuana and hemp are set for public hearing in the Texas House on Monday.

Ryan Poppe/Texas Public Radio

From Texas Standard:

Cannabidiol products – better known as CBD – are fairly new to Texas. They usually come in the form of oils, drinks or snacks containing the nonpsychoactive chemical compound found in cannabis, THC. CBD products usually contain just a minuscule amount of THC, and can't get you high, but when ingested, some say they alleviate inflammation and anxiety. But in Texas, where products containing THC are mostly illegal, where does that leave CBD? The city attorney of Edinburg recently asked just that in a letter to Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton.

Molly Smith, a reporter for the McAllen Monitor, says the city attorney wants Paxton to issue a formal legal opinion because he says there's a legal "grey area" in Texas. Smith says most people, including CBD vendors, assume it's legal because their products contain such a minute amount of THC – less than what's legal under the Texas Compassionate Use Act, which allows people with certain severe health conditions to use products with less than 0.5 percent THC. Plus, she says federal law also makes it easy to assume that CBD is legal.

H. Zell/Wikimedia Commons

From Texas Standard.

Canadian lawmakers voted Tuesday to legalize the recreational use of cannabis. Our northern neighbors are only the second country in the world to legalize marijuana. This poses a question: Are times changing? In their recently adopted party platform, Texas Republicans endorsed medical marijuana, cannabis decriminalization and industrial hemp.

Pixabay

From Texas Standard.

The first state-licensed cannabis dispensary for patients with intractable epilepsy is now open in Manchaca, and, so far, 18 neurologist doctors are on the Compassionate Registry – including Dr. Gina Jetter, a member of Northeast Texas Neurologists Association in Tyler.

https://flic.kr/p/9o9F2o

People caught with less than 2 ounces of marijuana in Travis County may qualify to take a $45 four-hour class and avoid all charges under a proposal unanimously adopted by the Travis County Commissioners Court. The class would be available only to people who are "cited and released" by law enforcement, not to those arrested and booked into jail. 

"We had a practice that was marking people for life,” Commissioner Brigid Shea said before voting for the program Tuesday. She said it was particularly hard for people who couldn't afford to have their records expunged and were labeled criminals.

Laura Skelding for The Texas Tribune

The winding road that leads to Compassionate Cultivation could easily be mistaken for a dead end. It takes several seconds before drivers get off the main road and end up at a warehouse immediately surrounded by a dirt lot.

In a few months, however, scientists and manufacturers working out of this warehouse in Austin will begin legally growing marijuana.

Jennifer Martin/Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 4.0)

From Texas Standard:

Enforcing laws that make possession of small amounts of marijuana a criminal offense are costing taxpayers a lot of money, with little benefit in return. That’s the argument made by State Representative Jason Isaac (R-Dripping Springs). The bill he co-sponsored with Democrat Joe Moody of El Paso would reduce penalties for possession of less than an ounce of marijuana to a $250 civil fine.

 

On what House Bill 81 does:

Paul Weaver/Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

From Texas Standard:

For roughly six million law-abiding gun owners in Texas, part of the routine of legally purchasing a firearm from a gun shop involves completing a federal background check. It's a pretty straightforward affair – or at least has been, until now.

Flickr/AgriLife Today (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

From Texas Standard:

As Texas moves forward with legalizing access to cannabis oil for some epilepsy patients, the state still needs to set up a system for distributing the medicine. Some folks in McKinney are offering up an idea: they want to repurpose a hundred-year-old cotton gin to grow, process and distribute cannabis oil.

Todd Wiseman/Texas Tribune

Texas broke the seal on marijuana legalization this year when lawmakers voted to make available a non-intoxicating marijuana extract for patients with severe epilepsy in 2017. And, a national advocacy group for the legal marijuana industry is pledging to push even harder in Texas for a change in pot regulation.


flickr.com/esqenzo

From the Texas Tribune: Epilepsy patients in Texas would have access to medicinal oils containing a therapeutic component found in marijuana under legislation the state Senate passed Thursday.  

Senators voted 26-5 to pass Senate Bill 339, by Sen. Kevin Eltife, R-Tyler, which would legalize oils containing cannabidiol (CBD), a component found in marijuana known to treat epilepsy and other chronic medical conditions. If the measure passes the House, by 2018, the state would be able to regulate and distribute the oils to patients whose symptoms have not responded to federally approved medication. 

Eighty-Five Year Old Advocates for Marijuana Reform

Mar 5, 2015

Ann Lee, founder of Republicans Against Marijuana Prohibition (RAMP), says it was her son's health that prompted her activism.

 

A new bill in the Texas House of Representatives would strike all references to marijuana from state statutes. Representative David Simpson (R-Longview) filed House Bill 2165 on Monday. The bill would effectively end the state-wide prohibition of the drug.

Jaypeg21/flickr

Nearly 300 marijuana advocates gathered today at the Texas State Capitol to lobby for lower criminal penalties for possession, such as those proposed in House Bill 507, and for access to medical marijuana. 

Mengwen Cao/KUT

As he ramps up a possible bid for the Republican presidential nomination, U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) has revealed through a spokesperson that he "foolishly experimented with marijuana" once as a teenager, but feels it was a mistake and has never tried it since. 

An unnamed Cruz spokesperson made the revelation to the UK paper The Daily Mail. The Cruz campaign confirmed to KUT News that the report is accurate. 

https://flic.kr/p/aQtkzi

Investors who want to buy into the legal marijuana industry are gathering this weekend in Houston. Organizers say it's the first marijuana investor conference in Texas. 

Even though marijuana is illegal in Texas, it's not necessarily against the law to invest in aspects of the business in one of the 23 states that have permitted it for medical or recreational use.

"If you are touching the plant, and you're in Texas, you may have a problem," organizer Doug Leighton says. "If you're doing the ancillary businesses and products, then I think you have a clear pathway to invest."

Williamson County

A 19-year-old in Round Rock is no longer facing the possibility of life in prison for allegedly making marijuana brownies and selling them for $25 each. The case involving Jacob Lavoro attracted national attention. An online petition against the punishment has more than a quarter million signatures. 

Williamson County assistant District Attorney Mark Brunner says they decided not to pursue a charge based on the total weight of the brownies to avoid jury "distraction" during a possible trial. 

http://www.flickr.com/photos/prensa420/11875638094

Texas has one of the lowest rates of marijuana use in the country, according to a closely watched federal report. Recently released state level data from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) shows less than five percent of Texas adults said they had used marijuana in the last month.

Among teenagers, six percent reporting having used marijuana in the last month. That rose to almost 14 percent for the 18-25 year old demographic. Only three percent of adults over 26 in Texas said they had used pot in the last month. The survey data was collected in 2010 and 2011. 

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