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Texas Lawmakers Introduce Multiple Bills to Decriminalize or Legalize Cannabis Statewide

Texas has long been lagging behind the rest of the country regarding cannabis policy reform. But in 2023, things are starting to look different in the Lone Star State. In the last few months alone, Texas lawmakers have introduced multiple bills to decriminalize or legalize cannabis statewide or locally. This is a marked shift from just a few years ago when any conversation regarding cannabis was quickly shut down on both sides of the aisle.

The Texas House of Representatives passed a bill on Thursday, April 27th, 2021, to decriminalize the possession of small amounts of marijuana. This bill, HB 218, was approved on its second reading by members of the House with a voice vote Wednesday afternoon and is expected to be signed into law soon.

Under the proposed legislation, possession of up to one ounce of marijuana or cannabis concentrate would no longer be subject to arrest. Meanwhile, possession amounts of cannabis changed between misdemeanor charges instead of major criminal penalties. The bill also includes measures allowing the expungement of past convictions related to minor cannabis possession offenses.

Texas Lawmakers

This move towards decriminalization follows past attempts by the Texas House over the last two legislative sessions to pass bills that would lower the penalty for marijuana possession from a criminal charge to a civil fine. This latest bill is seen as a significant step forward for cannabis policy reform in the Lone Star State.

If signed into law, HB 218 will become effective on September 1st, 2023. It is expected to immediately reduce the number of people serving time behind bars or dealing with criminal records that can prevent them from finding jobs or accessing housing. It has been estimated that this legislation could save hundreds of millions annually by reducing enforcement and incarceration costs related to low-level marijuana offenses.

The Texas House of Representatives also considers a broader cannabis legalization bill, HB 3652. This legislation, introduced by Democrat state Rep. Joseph Moody, would propose legalizing adult-use cannabis in the Lone Star State and create a system for taxing and regulating the sale and distribution of recreational marijuana.

Under the proposed bill, taxes on adult-use cannabis sales would be set at 10%, with revenue going towards education in the state. The measure would also establish a regulatory framework for licensed marijuana businesses to operate legally and safely within the state. Additionally, it includes measures to protect consumers by ensuring that only regulated products are available for purchase.

If passed into law, HB 3652 could generate up to billions in annual revenue for the state and create thousands of jobs in the legal cannabis industry. The House Criminal Jurisprudence Committee is currently considering the measure, which will decide whether to advance it to the full chamber for a vote in the coming weeks.

In addition to the statewide measures being considered, lawmakers in Texas are also looking at legislation allowing local governments to legalize recreational marijuana. State Rep. Jessica Gonzalez introduced House Bill 1937, which would enable counties, cities, and other municipalities to opt-in and create their systems for regulating adult-use cannabis within their jurisdictions.

Under the proposed legislation, local governments would have the power to create their own tax and regulatory frameworks for legal marijuana businesses. This could open the door for cities in Texas to start implementing their own legalization models without waiting for state lawmakers to pass a statewide bill.

The House Committee on Criminal Jurisprudence is also considering this measure, and a decision is expected in the coming weeks. If passed into law, HB 1937 could be a significant step forward toward comprehensive cannabis policy reform in the Lone Star State.

The shift in cannabis policies could also benefit Texas residents who rely on medical marijuana for their health. Currently, many Texans are forced to purchase their medically-prescribed cannabis from out-of-state sources due to the lack of legal access within the state.

If the proposed bills become law, it would open up new opportunities for Texans to access their medication within their own state, which could help save them time and money. It could also bring much-needed jobs and revenue to local communities in Texas by creating a regulated market for medical marijuana products.

With an unprecedented number of bills being considered by state and local representatives, Texas is moving quickly to catch up with other states that have already implemented progressive cannabis policies. If passed into law, these measures could bring significant changes to how marijuana is treated in the state and open up opportunities for businesses to enter the legal cannabis market.

It remains to be seen if any of these bills will become law this year, but one thing is clear: Texas is no longer lagging regarding marijuana policy reform. Instead, the Lone Star State is finally moving forward with progressive measures that could truly transform the cannabis industry in Texas.

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