Texas Becoming More of an Outlier in Marijuana Legislation

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One of the most significant under reported stories of the 2017 Legislature was the fact that all efforts to expand the use of marijuana failed, News Radio 1200 WOAI reports.

Lawmakers rejected more than a dozen separate bills that would have broadened the ability of various Texans to use marijuana.  

There were bills calling for full 'Colorado style' recreational legalization, for decriminalization, for full medical use of marijuana, even for expanding the existing very limited law that allows the use of refined cannabis oil to treat people suffering from vary narrowly defined seizure disorder.

All of them failed.

Now, the agenda for the upcoming Special Session is out, and no marijuana bills are on it, either.

State Sen. Jose Menendez, who sponsored a medical marijuana bill, says he is disappointed, but not surprised.

"This is not me trying to recreate a California," Menendez said.  "This is about real medical use."

Texas is increasingly an outlier as state after state takes action to liberalize marijuana laws.  Eight states now allow legalized the recreational use of marijuana, and 29 states and the District of Columbia, have laws on the books allowing the full use of marijuana for medical purposes.

Even the state's counties are racing ahead of the state on this issue.  Bexar County Sheriff Javier Salazar and District Attorney Nico LaHood are putting together to put together what they call a 'Cite and Release' program for otherwise law abiding individuals arrested for possession of small amounts of marijuana, where they would simply be handed a traffic ticket and told to report to court in the future to pay a fine or enter a drug diversion program.

Similar programs are in the works, or have already been approved, in other major cities.

Unlike in 2015, when major law enforcement organizations opposed liberalization of marijuana laws, in 2017 the major organizations remained relatively neutral on the issue, and many police officers, sheriff's deputies, and prosecutors testified about how much of a drain it is to be required to arrest and prosecute people for simply possession of small amounts of marijuana.  Taxpayer costs in the tens of millions of dollars, as well as taking an officer off the street for half of a shift to fill out paperwork, were cited.

And Menendez says there is growing support among the public for expanded use of marijuana for medical purposes. In one Statehouse protest, veterans suffering from PTSD stacked their pill bottles on the capitol steps, showing all of the potentially dangerous drugs they would not have to take if marijuana were legalized.

"It is going to take the business community pushing on them as well," he said.  "I think they're afraid of the political repurcussions."

Standing in the way of any marijuana liberalization laws is Gov. Abbott, who has said he will not approve any more marijuana bills on his watch.

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