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Bills To Create Hemp Program, Expand Medical Marijuana Access In Texas Await Governor's Signature

Marijuana on top of a Texas flag

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.

At the end of the session, two marijuana-related bills are set to become law in Texas – unless the governor decides to veto them.

On The Governor's Desk

House Bill 1325

Rep. Tracy King of Uvalde set out to create a state program with a bill that would regulate the testing and production of hemp in Texas. Hemp is already legal in Texas after the federal government removed it from its list of banned substances, but it’s still illegal to grow it here.

HB 1325 would also set up regulation for hemp-derived products like CBD. You can buy these types of products in Texas, even though they are technically illegal because they contain the psychoactive component of marijuana, THC.

The bill was the most successful cannabis-related measure this session, passing unanimously out of both the House and Senate. During a Senate committee hearing on the measure, Texas Department of Agriculture Assistant Commissioner Dan Hunter said the department hopes to have a permitting process in place by the end of the year.

House Bill 3703

This bill expands access to medical marijuana to Texans suffering certain health conditions, including all types of epilepsy, multiple sclerosis, autism and terminal cancer. Fort Worth Rep. Stephanie Klick said HB 3703 follows in the vein of her previous work focused on "a truly medical program that follows the scientific data."

Texans with intractable epilepsy have been eligible to use medical marijuana in the state because of the 2015 Texas Compassionate Use Act, which the Republican also spearheaded.

Maybe Next Time

House Bill 63

Both the 2018 Democratic and Republican party platforms support reducing penalties for Texans caught with small amounts of marijuana.

HB 63, from Democratic Rep. Joe Moody of El Paso, began as a decriminalization measure that sought to make possession of an ounce or less of marijuana a civil offense, rather than a criminal one.

But Moody amended the bill before a House vote, leaving possession of that amount a criminal offense, but reducing it to a Class C misdemeanor. Moody said he made the change after working with Gov. Greg Abbott in an effort to increase the bill’s chances of passing.

The House preliminarily voted to pass the bill, only to have Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick declare it dead in a tweet the following morning. The bill was never referred to a Senate committee.

House Bill 1365

This bill from Democratic Rep. Eddie Lucio III of Brownsville would have expanded medical marijuana access to Texans suffering from cancer, glaucoma, PTSD and other conditions. HB 1365 passed out of the House and was referred to the Senate Health and Human Services Committee, where it remained until the end of the session.

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