Articles Tagged with “legalize marijuana”

2017 Held a lot of promise for marijuana reform. Texans across the state and political spectrum flooded legislator’s offices and phones with a clear and concise message, “We want marijuana law reform now.” Unfortunately, as the session ended, it became clear that the Texas legislature was deaf to the voice of the Texas people.

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The Groundwork

The push for marijuana law reform during the 85th Texas Legislative session began back in 2016, when advocacy groups focused on laying the political groundwork for marijuana law reform. Advocacy groups worked hard to amend the Texas Republican Party platform[1] to call for a complete overhaul of the Texas Compassionate use act of 2015, Texas’s anemic medical marijuana program. Advocates also hit the streets supporting and donating to pro marijuana reform candidates during the 2016 election cycle. As 2016 ended, the groundwork for real reform had been laid, and advocates across the state were optimistically looking forward to the 2017 legislative cycle.

iStock_000011009457_ExtraSmallIn 2015, Governor Greg Abbott signed into law SB 339 known as the Texas Compassionate Use Act. The bill authorizes DPS to implement a dispensary program to include a registry of physicians who are authorized to prescribe low levels of THC cannabis, and their patients who are receiving the medication. The online Compassionate Use Registry is expected to begin development in July 2016. DPS will also provide licenses to dispensaries for regulated cultivation, operation, and dispensation of cannabis. Acceptance of licensing applications begin in June 2017, and at least three dispensaries can receive a license by September 2017.  There is no limit to the number of distributors who can receive a license.

The program is strictly limited to qualified patients, regardless of age, diagnosed with intractable epilepsy. This means that a patient must be a permanent resident of Texas, and have tried at least two FDA-approved medications in the past that have not alleviated seizures. The law also requires that two physicians determine  that the medical use of prescribed, low-THC cannabis will benefit the patient. Low-THC is defined as marijuana that contains 10% or more cannabidiol (CBD, a non-psychoactive compound in cannabis) and no more than .5% of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC, the psychoactive compound in cannabis). The availability of cannabis will be in the form of oils so smoking cannabis will remain illegal under state and federal law. Neither DPS nor another State agency will regulate the cost of cannabis which means prices will be based on a market-based system. For more FAQs, see DPS’s website.

Although this is a historical step for Texas, implementation of the program could delay if medical doctors shy away from prescribing medical marijuana or are slow to implement guidelines in their practice. More Texans will need access to medical marijuana if the legislature wants to help other citizens who want to use cannabis for health reasons. Research has shown that cannabidiol can alleviate the ailments of those suffering from arthritis, anxiety, depression, and PTSD.

iStock_000004478097XSmall (3).jpgAmid a growing movement to legalize marijuana for personal use, two bills were recently proposed in the U.S. House of Representatives that would give states the option to legalize medical or recreational marijuana use, but would require each state to levy federal taxes on all marijuana sales.

The twin bills work in conjunction with each other and were introduced by Representatives Jared Polis of Colorado and Earl Blumenauer of Oregon, both Democrats. One bill proposes to allow states to exercise jurisdiction over marijuana and regulate it in a way similar to alcohol, effectively ending the federal ban on pot. The second bill would levy a federal tax over state marijuana sales, providing a lucrative tax resource in a time of increasingly tight government budgets. A similar bipartisan effort in the House of Representatives failed in 2011, but with an increasing number of states decriminalizing or legalizing marijuana it is inevitable that this bill, or one like it, will eventually pass on the federal level.

Meanwhile in Colorado and Washington, where citizens voted to legalize marijuana in 2012, state legislators, growers, providers, law enforcement agents and both medical and recreational marijuana users are wondering how to navigate the conflicting state and federal marijuana laws. The U.S. Justice Department has yet to clarify its stance on the issue, but President Barack Obama has said it does not make sense for the federal government to focus on recreational drug possession in states that have modernized their marijuana laws, given increasingly limited government resources and growing public acceptance of marijuana use.