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Texas GOP Marijuana Activists Push Governor To Support Further Reform During Special Session This Week



Republican marijuana activists in Texas are calling on the governor to put further expansions to the state’s medical cannabis program on the agenda for a special legislative session he’s convened for this week.

While Gov. Greg Abbott (R) signed legislation last month to moderately expand the medical marijuana law by adding qualifying conditions and slightly increasing the THC limit for marijuana products, Republicans Against Marijuana Prohibition (RAMP) is hoping to see further action during the session that starts on Thursday.

Specifically, they’re urging the governor to use his unilateral authority to place on the session agenda measures that would allow regulators to add even more qualifying conditions for patients, such as chronic pain, and to further adjust the THC limit.

“During the 87th Legislative Session, the legislature passed HB 1535, which allows for all forms of cancer and patients with PTSD to now qualify for the program, increases the THC cap from 0.5 percent to 1 percent, and facilitates research programs,” RAMP said. “While these are important changes, critical aspects of the bill were removed in the Senate.”

The group is circulating a petition—supported by Texas NORML and Texans for Responsible Marijuana Policy—to build pressure on the governor to call for the cannabis reforms. So far, it has more than 4,000 signatures, out of its goal of 6,400.

“As the Governor of Texas, only you decide what can be on the agenda for a special session,” it says. “Please add medical cannabis to the agenda and help save lives in Texas.”

As it stands, Abbott has said the session will focus on election restrictions that Republicans failed to enact earlier this year. Lawmakers also still need to finalize the state budget after the governor vetoed the version that passed in the regular session.

Meanwhile, a newly established progressive group in the state called Ground Game Texas unveiled a campaign last week to put an initiative to decriminalize cannabis possession and ban no-knock warrants on this November’s ballot in Austin.

Former Democratic congressional candidate Mike Siegel, founder of the organization, suggested on Friday that tapping into the popularity of marijuana reform at the local level could “unlock massive progressive victories” across the state in 2022.

“What if 30 Texas cities have marijuana decriminalization on their ballots next year? he asked in a Twitter post. “What would that mean for races up and down the ballot, for City Council, for Mayor, for District Attorney, for State House, for Congress, for Governor? Can we flip Texas with the help of weed?”

There is no statewide, citizen-led initiative process that would enable advocates to put an issue like decriminalization or legalization on the Texas ballot. But at the local level, there are limited cases where activists can leverage home rule laws that allow for policy changes.

A strong majority of Texans back even broader reform, according to recent polling. Sixty percent of voters in the state support making cannabis legal “for any use,” signaling that local initiatives for more modest proposals like decriminalization will likely prevail where they qualify for local ballots.

With respect to the recently ended regular legislative session, advocates remain disappointed that they were unable to pass more expansive cannabis bills—including a decriminalization proposal that cleared the House but saw no action in the Senate.

Also this session, however, the governor allowed a bill to be enacted without his signature that will require the state to study the therapeutic potential of certain psychedelics for military veterans.

The House approved a cannabis decriminalization bill in 2019, but it did not advance in the Senate that session.

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