In the 2020 elections, voters approved statewide ballot proposals to legalize medical and/or adult-recreational-use marijuana in Arizona, Montana, New Jersey, Mississippi, and South Dakota. In total, medical marijuana is now legal in 36 states and recreational use cannabis is now legal in 15 states. Currently, marijuana legalization remains on the docket for Texas in 2021. While many lawmakers have high expectations for this year, loosening marijuana laws has been a long and grueling battle for the Lone Star State.
A Brief History of Marijuana in Texas
Marijuana has a lengthy history in the state of Texas. El Paso was the first city in the country to ban the drug when a man killed a police officer after smoking the substance in 1915. The negative stigma followed into 1923 when Texas declared marijuana a “narcotic” and prohibited its possession. For years, Texas was the only state where a marijuana-related offense could face life in prison. In 1973, House Bill 447 was signed into law, and Texas reduced possession of four ounces or less of marijuana to a misdemeanor. Later, in 2007, House Bill 2391 enabled police to “cite and release” for marijuana possession of up to four ounces. In June of 2019, House Bill 1325 made the cultivation of hemp containing less than 0.3% THC legal while simultaneously legalizing the possession and sale of compliant hemp-derived products.
What Legal Marijuana Would Mean for Texas
Texas is currently facing a looming $4.6 billion deficit by the end of the year 2021, and marijuana advocates maintain that legalization would promote a significant number of jobs and boost the economy significantly. Since the legalization of industrial hemp in 2019, CBD and hemp-based product sales have soared. Additionally, arrests for marijuana possession have dropped by about 18,000 between the years of 2018 and 2019.
These trends would continue with the legalization of marijuana, as both the demand and sense of community is palpable. Senator Roland Gutierrez has introduced Senate Bill 140 (SB 140), which, he says, would result in $3.2 billion in state revenue by legalizing marijuana for both medical and recreational use. Gutierrez also contends that doing so would produce 30,000 high-paying jobs, which would help fill the void left from Covid-19.
The Proposed Legislation For Legalizing Marijuana In Texas
Over 13 marijuana-related bills are circulating in the Texas legislature as 2021 approaches. One of the most notable is SB 140, which would legalize marijuana and introduce a range of regulations to restrict minors’ access to the substance. Additionally, this bill would implement a 10% tax on cannabis sales, producing over $1.6 billion for public services such as schools and transportation. Other notable bills include HB 447 and HB 441, which would legalize marijuana use for adults over the age of 21 and decriminalize marijuana, respectively. These bills still must pass the head of the Senate, Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick, who has repeatedly shut down marijuana-related bills.
Even without the passing of the above house bills, other bills such as HB 43, SB 90, and HB 307 aim to decriminalize marijuana significantly. As yet another alternative, HJR 11 and HJR 13 aim to amend the Texas constitution and allow the use of cannabis by putting the issue in front of the Texas voting public. With all of these different avenues and efforts, marijuana legalization in Texas seems more likely than ever before, though it remains unclear.
Chelsie Spencer is a Texas-based marijuana lawyer who represents all sectors of the marijuana, hemp, and CBD industries, including manufacturers, distributors, and retailers. Chelsie remains active in the marijuana community and offers extensive expertise in cannabis law and business law, with significant experience in issues regarding compliance, copyrights, trademarks, and more. Contact Ritter Spencer Cheng or give us a call at 214.295.5070 for more information.