Texas House of Representatives Passes Bills to Expand Medical Marijuana Program and Reduce Marijuana Possession Penalties

On April 29, 2021, the Texas House of Representatives approved Texas House Bill 1535 (“HB 1535”), a bill that would expand Texas’ medical cannabis program. The Senate must now pass this bill before it can be signed into law and further advance Texas’ marijuana reform legislation. On April 30, 202, Texas House Bill 441 (“HB 441”) was also passed by the Texas House of Representatives; however, this bill faces an uphill climb in the Senate. If HB 441 is passed by the Senate and signed into law, this bill would reduce the criminal penalty for possessing small amounts of marijuana. These two bills indicate significant progress in Texas cannabis legislation but still face an uncertain fate in the Senate. Below, we break down what these reform bills mean for the marijuana community in Texas. 

What is Texas House Bill 1535? 

HB 1535 aims to expand Texas’ medical cannabis program and qualify more patients for access to medical cannabis. Currently, the Texas Compassionate Use Program (“TCUP”) includes a limited list of conditions that qualify for low-THC-cannabis-based treatment, such as epilepsy, multiple sclerosis, spasticity, autism, ALS, terminal cancer, and incurable neurodegenerative diseases. HB 1535, which was passed by the Texas House but must still make it through the Texas Senate, adds all forms of cancer, chronic pain, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) as medical conditions that qualify for low-THC-cannabis-based treatment under TCUP. The original legislation only qualifies veterans who have PTSD; however, HB 1535 would include all forms of diagnosed PTSD.  

Additionally, HB 1535 would raise the THC limit from 0.5 percent (0.5%) to 5 percent (5%), which would be a substantial increase in flexibility for TCUP and a vital step towards medical marijuana reform in Texas. 

What is Texas House Bill 441? 

On April 30, 2021, The Texas House passed HB 441, a bill that would lower the criminal penalty for possession of small amounts of marijuana and also provide an avenue toward expungement for Texans convicted of similar crimes. Under current Texas law, the possession of up to two ounces of marijuana is a Class B misdemeanor, punishable by up to 180 days in jail and a $2,000 fine. According to HB 441, the possession of one ounce or less of marijuana would be a Class C misdemeanor, punishable by a $500 fine, but no arrest or jail time. Upon payment of said fine, the individual’s case would automatically be deferred and, so long as the judge’s orders are followed, the individual would avoid a criminal record. 

What Do These Bills Mean for Marijuana in Texas?

According to the Compassionate Use Registry, as of April 2021, 5,413 patients in Texas were registered with TCUP. This number is expected to increase significantly with the passing of HB 1535, as Texans with all forms of cancer, chronic pain, or PTSD would be able to seek medical-marijuana-based treatment options. Moreover, if HB 1535 is passed, current and future patients would be able to access medical marijuana with a THC cap of 5 percent: a major increase from the current THC cap of 0.5 percent.  

With the passing of HB 441, police in Texas would not be able to arrest civilians possessing one ounce or less of marijuana. Instead, the punishment would be a Class C misdemeanor and $500 fine, which may not even result in a criminal record. 

These two reform bills suggest significant support and headway in the marijuana community in the Lone Star State, but they require even further backing to make it through the state Senate. 

Cannabis lawyer Chelsie Spencer works diligently in the marijuana community to provide legal services and support to a range of hemp, marijuana, and CBD businesses. With significant experience in hemp and marijuana law, transactional matters, commercial law, and intellectual property law, including, but not limited to, copyrights and trademarks, Chelsie offers unique expertise in various legal fields. Contact Ritter Spencer Cheng or call us at214.295.5070 for more information.