AUSTIN, Texas (Nov. 13, 2018) – Multiple bills prefiled in the Texas legislature would positively change the legal status of marijuana, despite federal prohibition.
Two bills and two resolutions were filed this week to legalize the medical use of marijuana in the state. Should any pass into law, Texas would become the 34th state to allow the plant despite the fact that the federal government considers it a Schedule I controlled substance.
On the House side, Rep. Ron Reynolds (D-Missouri City) filed House Bill 209 (HB209) yesterday. The legislation would authorize the “possession, use, cultivation, distribution, transportation, and delivery of medical cannabis for medical use by qualifying patients” with specified “debilitating medical conditions.” It would also set up the “licensing of dispensing organizations and testing facilities.”
Reynolds also filed House Joint Resolution 21 (HJR21), a proposal for a state constitutional amendment to authorize and regulate the possession, cultivation, and sale of cannabis for medical use.
On the Senate side, companion legislation in Senate Bill 90 (SB90) was introduced by Sen. Jose Menendez (D-San Antonio). A Senate version of the state constitutional amendment, Senate Joint Resolution 7 (SJR7), was introduced by Sen. Jose Rodriguez (D-El Paso).
“Senate Bill 90 (is) a comprehensive and compassionate medical cannabis bill,” Senator Jose Menendez’s office said in a news release. “The proposed legislation would increase the number of debilitating medical conditions that qualify for the Texas Compassionate Use Program.”
In September, Gov. Abbott signaled some support for marijuana legislation for the first time.
“We’ve got more momentum, especially with the governor now stating his willingness to work with lawmakers on reducing penalties,” said Heather Fazio of Texans for Responsible Marijuana Policy. “I think 2019 will be the year we see this meaningful reform made in Texas, and it’s so desperately needed.”
Rodriguez also filed Senate Joint Resolution 8 (SJR8), a state constitutional amendment to authorize and regulate the possession, cultivation, and sale of cannabis.
Additional legislation to reduce civil and criminal penalties on small amounts of marijuana and to create a federally-authorized hemp research program was also filed and can be found on the Texans for Responsible Marijuana Policy resource page.
Despite the federal prohibition on marijuana, measures such as these remain perfectly constitutional, and the feds can do little if anything to stop them in practice.
Under the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) passed in 1970, the feds maintain complete prohibition of cannabis. Of course, the federal government lacks any constitutional authority to ban or regulate marijuana within the borders of a state, despite the opinion of the politically connected lawyers on the Supreme Court. If you doubt this, ask yourself why it took a constitutional amendment to institute federal alcohol prohibition.
Legalization of marijuana for medical or recreational purposes would remove another layer of laws prohibiting the possession and use of the plant, but federal prohibition will remain on the books.
FBI statistics show that law enforcement makes approximately 99 of 100 marijuana arrests under state, not federal law. By mostly ending state prohibition, Texas essentially sweeps away much of the basis for 99 percent of marijuana arrests.
Furthermore, figures indicate it would take 40 percent of the DEA’s yearly-budget just to investigate and raid all of the dispensaries in Los Angeles – a single city in a single state. That doesn’t include the cost of prosecution. The lesson? The feds lack the resources to enforce marijuana prohibition without state assistance.
A GROWING MOVEMENT
On Nov. 6th, multiple states passed ballot measures for medical marijuana, with Missouri becoming the 33rd state to do so. Michigan voters expanded on their long-standing medical market by approving a measure to legalize for recreational purposes.
With this many states allowing cannabis, the feds find themselves in a position where they simply can’t enforce prohibition anymore. As noted in a 2015 Tenth Amendment Center video, the states are winning this battle with the federal government:
“Even in face of increasing federal enforcement measures, the states found the winning path. It’s only a matter of time before they overwhelm federal enforcement capabilities completely, and the feds will have to act like they’ve decided to drop the issue just to save face.”