Texas House approves bill to lower penalties for marijuana possession and expunge previous offenses

The Texas House has voted to approve a bill that will lower penalties for marijuana possession and expunge previous offenses.

Rep. Joe Moody (D-El Paso) authored House Bill (HB) 218, which passed by a vote of 87 to 59, with one present not voting.

Currently, an individual charged with possessing less than two ounces of marijuana would be subject to a Class B misdemeanor, which can be punishable by 180 days in jail and a fine up to $2,000. This bill lowers the penalty for marijuana possession to a Class C misdemeanor for one ounce of marijuana and will require law enforcement to issue a citation.

The bill will also change criminal code to where an individual arrested and charged with a previous offense will have the opportunity to expunge their record of past possession convictions.

The Legislature legalized hemp in 2019, giving permission for farmers and businesses to cultivate and sell products containing its derivative cannabidiol (CBD). The 2018 federal Farm Bill also legalized industrial hemp and products containing hemp so long as the product does not contain more than 0.3 percent tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).

The Texas Department of State Health Services prohibits the manufacturing of hemp that is meant to be smoked, which the Supreme Court of Texas upheld after a lawsuit in 2022.

The Texas Compassionate Use Act enacted in 2015 allows physicians to prescribe low dose THC for patients with specific medical conditions such as incurable neurodegenerative diseases, cancer, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

U.S. Rep. Dan Crenshaw (R-TX-2) recently led a coalition in a legislative effort to expand psychedelic drug research to include active-duty servicemembers. He cited a Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies research report that showed favorable results for individuals who underwent psychedelic treatments with MDMA in conjunction with therapy; 67 percent of participants no longer qualified for a PTSD diagnosis, and 88 percent experienced a clinically significant reduction in symptoms.

Despite marijuana and MDMA remaining Schedule I illegal drugs at the federal level, 22 states have legalized recreational marijuana and multiple states have legalized or decriminalized the use of psychedelic drugs.

There are still questions surrounding the safety of marijuana use. Studies have suggested that high-potency cannabis can be associated with an increased risk of dependence, especially in young people. Some individuals who use high doses of marijuana have demonstrated a deficit in dopamine release. Additionally, studies have associated marijuana use with low sperm concentrations, which has a negative impact on fertility potential.

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick has been stringently opposed to marijuana legislation in the past. He struck down HB 63 last session, asserting, “I join with those House Republicans who oppose this step toward legalization of marijuana.”

Patrick will now make a determination on this year’s attempt by the House to pass marijuana-related legislation as Moody’s bill will wait to be assigned to committee in the Senate.
Dan Butcher

Dan Butcher is the editor and publisher of High Plains Pundit. Dan is also the host of the popular High Plains Pundit Podcast.

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