The governors of Texas and Louisiana on Thursday separately indicated that they will sign marijuana reform bills that have recently been delivered to their desks.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) left no room for interpretation on how he would act on a medical cannabis expansion measure that the legislature sent him.
“Veterans could qualify for medical marijuana under new law,” he tweeted. “I will sign it.”
Veterans could qualify for medical marijuana under new law.
I will sign it.https://t.co/KkoC15Ur66
— Greg Abbott (@GregAbbott_TX) June 11, 2021
Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards (D) was less explicit, stating at a press briefing that he’s “interested in signing the bill that would lessen the penalty for possessing small amounts of marijuana.”
The governor noted that some reporters “may be surprised to hear” he’s inclined to approve the cannabis decriminalization measure, referring to his longtime opposition to broad legalization. That said, other recent comments Edwards has separately made signaled that he may be increasingly open to even more comprehensive proposals to completely end marijuana prohibition if they are ever sent to his desk.
When it comes to the current decriminalization measure, he said he and his staff are “reviewing that one now.”
Louisiana lawmakers also sent Edwards a separate bill last week to let patients in the state’s medical cannabis program legally smoke whole-plant marijuana flower. He didn’t weigh in on that proposal at the press conference, but he’s previously cited it as an example of the type of incremental reform he expected to advance.
In Texas, the marijuana measure that the governor says he will sign would add cancer and post-traumatic stress disorder to the list of conditions that qualify patients for medical cannabis. As passed in the House, it would have also included chronic pain as a qualifying condition, but that was removed by the Senate, and it was not re-added in a conference committee. Also, the legislation doubled the THC cap for marijuana products, increasing it from 0.5 percent to one percent. Originally the House-approved version increased the limit to five percent, but that was watered down in the Senate.
Abbott has not yet commented on a separate piece of drug policy reform legislation that the legislature also passed to require the state to study the therapeutic potential of psychedelics like psilocybin and MDMA. But for what it’s worth, that measure is also aimed at supporting military veterans’ health.
If all the bills are signed into law, it would represent a significant victory for advocates who have been working overtime in the conservative legislatures to get lawmakers on board. But in both states, there have also been defeats this session.
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Texas bills to reduce penalties for possessing cannabis concentrates, update the state’s hemp program and broadly decriminalize marijuana advanced—but they did not make it over the finish line by the session’s end.
Partly because of those failures, a newly formed progressive coalition that’s being led by two former congressional candidates said it plans to take cannabis and other issues directly to voters by putting reform measures on local ballots across the state.
In Louisiana, there was an effort to pass a bill to legalize adult-use cannabis, but it stalled in the House after the chamber failed to pass a complementary measure on taxing recreational marijuana. Edwards did say last month that he believes the reform “is going to happen in Louisiana eventually.”
In April, Edwards also said that he had “great interest” in the legalization proposal, and he pledged to take a serious look at its various provisions.
Last year, the Louisiana legislature significantly expanded the state’s medical marijuana program by passing a bill that allows physicians to recommend cannabis to patients for any debilitating condition that they deem fit instead of from the limited list of maladies that’s used under current law.
Abbott, for his part, did not sign separate legislation to clarify that a positive marijuana test alone is not sufficient criteria for removing a child from their home. But he didn’t veto it, either, and it was enacted without the his signature last month and takes effect on September 1, 2021.
Prohibition remains on the books in both traditionally conservative states—but between legislative actions this session and both governors expressing some level of support for more modest reform, it can’t be said that advocates haven’t made progress.
Photo courtesy of Kimberly Lawson.