A record six bills regarding cannabis policy passed from the Texas House to the Senate this session, including five bills on our priority list. Two of those will become law (HB 1535 & HB 567).
Bills were sent to the Senate which would:
- Reduce the penalty for THC concentrates from a felony to Class B misdemeanor. (HB 2593)
- Reduce the penalty for possession of marijuana flower and eliminate jail time for possessing small amounts. (HB 441)
- Enshrine parental protections. (HB 567)
- Improve the Texas Hemp Program. (HB 3948)
- Improve the Texas Compassionate Use Program. (HB 1535)
We also were able to prevent Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick’s ban of Delta-8 by blocking his attempt to add amendments to several pieces of our legislation.
Bills which codify patient protections for those who are in the Texas Compassionate Use Program (T.CUP) and protect them from being harassed by child protective services are on their way to becoming law and heading to the governor’s desk!
Chairwoman Klick decided against going through the potentially time consuming Conference Committee and accepted the changes to the legislation which were made by the Senate. This means that HB 1535’s final version, which now heads to the Governor’s desk, increases the THC cap from 0.5 percent to 1 percent, allows patients with PTSD and all forms of cancer to qualify, and facilitates research programs.
While these are extremely important changes, Texas NORML is saddened to see such integral elements removed from the legislation by the Senate, such as the addition of chronic pain as a qualifying condition, the ability for a review board to approve new qualifying conditions, as well as a new THC cap of 5 percent. We are encouraged by broadened efforts and will continue to advocate for a robust program which allows doctors to decide which conditions and symptoms could benefit from medical cannabis, removing the arbitrary THC cap, and solidifying patient protections.
As passed out of the House and Senate State Affairs Committee hearing, HB 2593 garnered broad support, including favorable testimony from a sitting district attorney in north Texas and numerous advocacy organizations. There was an unnecessary amendment added during the Senate floor debate which stood to have a major impact on the Delta-8 market. (Learn more about Delta-8) With differing versions from both chambers, the House author (Speaker Pro Tempore Joe Moody) decided to go to a Conference Committee to resolve the differences.
We were successful in getting the problematic amendment removed during the Conference Committee. The resulting conference report was approved by the House, however Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick chose inaction (likely frustrated by the defeat of his efforts to ban Delta-8) by refusing to recognize the bill’s sponsor, Sen. Nathan Johnson. Unable to present the HB 2593 Conference Committee Report due to Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, the bill was rendered dead. It is extremely sad to see this critical legislation sabotaged when it had such far reaching support.
As passed out of the House, HB 3948 garnered broad support from Texas farmers, industry, and businesses. The bill would have created an important licensing process for research, cleaned up some language for Texas farmers, allowed hemp feed, and more. However, the Senate chose to add an amendment with language addressing “synthetics” which strictly limits Delta-8 products and THC in general, causing a conflict with the House version of the bill. With differing House and Senate versions, the House author (Rep. Tracy King) decided to go to a conference committee. The authors did not come to an agreement in time and the bill is now dead after not meeting the deadline.
It is imperative that we focus on effectively regulating the cannabis market. Prohibition is expensive, ineffective, and a failed policy. It is important that we regulate the market to ensure consumer protection and quality products, restrict access to those under the age of 21, save taxpayer money, and generate revenue.
Senate Refusal to Act
Cannabis legislation which would have not only improved the lives of Texans but literally saved them arrived at the Senate, however Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick chose to ignore them. Despite plenty of time left in the session, and an idle Senate, these bills were not given a hearing, even though they enjoyed overwhelming support in the House. Inaction was the hallmark of the Senate during the 87th Legislature.
This session has been an epic whirlwind with many adversities. While we have made some improvement to the laws this session, what we are most proud of is our team. We were repeatedly told no, that our bills were dead or that they wouldn’t give us any more. We pushed back! We forced Lt. Governor Dan Patrick to move the medical bill to committee and then hold a hearing so we could ensure access to more patients. We pushed back on the Delta-8 ban and were able to mitigate harm to businesses and consumers. This may not be the session we deserved or wanted but we worked very hard for it and I am so proud of you. After we refresh and regroup after this session, let’s turn our focus on the interim, regulatory advocacy, and upcoming elections. Stay tuned for our voter guide and more!
Texas NORML Executive Director