Monday is a busy day for hemp and marijuana policy in Texas, with lawmakers in three House committees scheduled to hold hearings on 11 separate pieces of cannabis legislation.
The hearings come one week after a Texas House committee approved a marijuana decriminalization bill that would make possession of one ounce or less punishable by a $250 fine with no jail time. That legislation is awaiting placement on the House calendar for a full floor vote.
In the meantime, lawmakers in the House Criminal Jurisprudence Committee will take testimony on five other bills that would reduce penalties for possession of various amounts of cannabis, in addition to one proposed constitutional amendment to legalize and regulate marijuana sales. Here’s a rundown of those bills:
HB 335: The legislation would make possession of one ounce or less a Class C misdemeanor, as opposed to a Class B misdemeanor.
HB 371: Possession of one ounce of less of cannabis would be a Class C misdemeanor under the bill.
HB 753: The bill would make possession of .35 ounces (or about ten grams) of marijuana a Class C misdemeanor.
HB 1206: Under this legislation, possession of two ounces or less of cannabis would be a Class C misdemeanor. It also lowers penalties for higher levels of possession, making possession of five pounds or less a Class A misdemeanor instead of a state jail felony, for example.
HB 2518: Possession of two ounces of less would be a Class C misdemeanor under the bill. Penalties for possession of marijuana over two ounces would remain in place.
HJR 108: The joint resolution proposes a constitutional amendment that would authorize the possession, cultivation and sale of marijuana for personal use.
“We’re grateful to see so many legislators prioritizing marijuana law reform and understanding that current policies are costly and ineffective,” Heather Fazio, director of Texans for Responsible Marijuana Policy, said in a press release. “We’re working to ensure any passing measure includes provisions to eliminate the threat of arrest, jail time and permanent criminal record for low-level marijuana possession.”
“A criminal record for even a small amount of marijuana follows a person for life, hindering their access to education, employment and housing,” she said. “This is especially important considering that high school and college age Texans make up the majority of arrests every year. We’re saddling our young people with criminal records and causing more harm to their lives than marijuana itself ever could.”
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Elsewhere at the capitol, the House Agriculture and Livestock Committee will be meeting to discuss several pieces of hemp legislation. Here’s what those bills would do:
HB 1325: The bill would require the state agriculture department to develop regulations for hemp production. Those regulations would include annual inspections, tracking and testing of hemp and hemp products. It would also be charged with instituting fees for hemp cultivation.
HB 989: Beyond requiring the agriculture department to create rules for hemp manufacturing, the bill also calls on the department to select a university through which it will “promote the research and development of industrial hemp and commercial markets for industrial hemp and hemp-derived products.”
HB 1657: The legislation would also require the agriculture department to establish a regulatory framework for hemp. The bill would additionally amend the state’s drug laws to exempt hemp from the list of controlled substances.
HB 1230: The legislation would mandate the agriculture department to develop regulations for industrial hemp cultivation and then submit those plans to the U.S. Department of Agriculture for approval.
Finally, the House Judiciary and Civil Jurisprudence Committee has one cannabis-related bill on Monday’s agenda.
HB 1196: This bill would simply make a change to statutory references to marijuana. Instead of “marihuana,” the plant would be referred to as “cannabis” in official state code.
Most of the proposed Texas cannabis reform measures aren’t as sweeping as bills that are moving forward in other states. In New Hampshire, for example, legislation to legalize cannabis for adult use cleared two major legislative hurdles in recent weeks. But the sheer volume of decriminalization and hemp regulation bills alone is a positive signal for advocates.
What’s more, Gov. Greg Abbott (R) has already indicated that he’s open to signing decriminalization legislation that reduces the penalty for low-level possession to a Class C misdemeanor. The governor said he doesn’t want to see “jails stockpiled with people who have possession of small amounts of marijuana.”
Meanwhile, lawmakers are also considering legislation to expand the state’s current limited medical cannabis law.