Nine Marijuana Bills Filed for 2015 Texas Legislative Session
Over the last decade, voters have passed and legislators have approved several measures in multiple states all over the country to either decriminalize or legalize marijuana (referred to as “marihuana” in Texas statutes). Some states have enacted measures that legalize certain forms of cannabis for medical uses, but other states recently took steps to legalize marijuana for recreational use.
Texas could become the next state to take the sensible step to change state marihuana laws. Today is the final day of the Texas Legislature’s 84th Session for state lawmakers to file bills, and there are currently nine different bills this legislative session that could dramatically affect cannabis possession in the Lone Star State:
- House Bill 325 (Relating to the prosecution of and penalties for possession of 0.35 ounces or less of marihuana) — Introduced by Representative Gene Wu and filed last November, this bill would make possession of up to 0.35 ounces (or 9.92233 grams) of marijuana a Class C misdemeanor punishable by a fine of no more than $500 (as long as the alleged offender is not in possession within 1,000 feet of a school), although the charge would be elevated to a Class B misdemeanor upon a fourth conviction. Police officers could issue tickets instead of having to place alleged offenders under arrest. HB 325 was referred in February to the Texas House Committee on Criminal Jurisprudence.
- House Bill 414 (Relating to the penalties for possession of one ounce or less of marihuana or a synthetic cannabinoid) — Introduced by Representative Harold Dutton and filed last November, this bill would make possession of one ounce or less of cannabis a Class C misdemeanor, but the charge increases to a Class B misdemeanor if an alleged offender has been previously convicted three or more times of marijuana possession and each prior offense was committed within the prior two years. HB 414 was referred in February to the Texas House Committee on Criminal Jurisprudence.
- House Bill 507 (Relating to a civil penalty for possession of certain small amounts of marihuana and an exception to prosecution for possession of associated drug paraphernalia) — Introduced by Representative Joe Moody and filed last December, this bill would make possession of one ounce or less of marijuana punishable by a civil penalty rather than a criminal penalty. Violators would not be arrested, jailed, or have a criminal record. Instead, the penalty would be a maximum fine of $100. Additionally, the court could waive or reduce the civil penalty if the alleged offender performs up to 10 hours of community service or attends a substance abuse education program approved by the Department of State Health Services or the Texas Department of Public Safety. HB 507 was referred in February to the Texas House Committee on Criminal Jurisprudence, where it should be noted that Moody serves as the Vice Chair.
- House Bill 557 (Relating to the growth or cultivation of industrial hemp for certain research purposes) — Introduced by Representative Joe Farias and filed last December, this bill would allow students, employees and researchers with institutions of higher education to commission the growing and development of hemp for research purposes. HB 557 was referred in February to the Texas House Committee on Agriculture & Livestock.
- House Bill 837 (Relating to the medical use of marihuana; providing a defense to prosecution for possession of marihuana) — Introduced by Representative Joe Farias and filed this past January, this bill would make it an affirmative defense to cannabis possession charges that the alleged offender was either a patient, a caregiver, or a licensed physician who using or recommending marijuana for a bona fide medical condition. HB 837 was referred in March to the Texas House Committee on Public Health.
- House Bill 892 and Senate Bill 339 (Relating to the medical use of low-THC cannabis and the regulation of related organizations and individuals; requiring a dispensing organization to obtain a license to dispense low-THC cannabis and any employee of a dispensing organization to obtain a registration; authorizing fees) — Introduced respectively by Representative Stephanie Klick and Senator Kevin Eltife and filed this past January, these bills would legalize the usage of low-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), high-cannabidiol (CBD) cannabis oils only for patients with intractable epilepsy. The bills have been criticized for serving only a very small percentage of patients suffering from one specific form of epilepsy, and there are additional concerns about the nature of treatments that patients would have to undergo before they would be able to utilize the CBD oil for treatment. HB 837 was referred in February to the Texas House Committee on Public Health. SB 339 was referred in February to the Texas House Committee on State Affairs before Senator Eltife submitted a motion requesting that it be referred to the Committee on Health and Human Services. In March, Senator José Rodríguez was authorized as a coauthor on SB 339.
- House Bill 1322 (Relating to industrial hemp; requiring an occupational license; authorizing fees) — Introduced by Representative Joe Farias and filed in February 2015, this bill would allow the farming, production, and sale of industrial hemp in Texas and create regulation for the licensing of hemp growers. It would essentially treat hemp the same as any other crop, but individuals would have their licenses revoked if they are found to be growing marijuana instead of hemp. HB 837 was referred in March to the Texas House Committee on Agriculture & Livestock.
- House Bill 2165 (Relating to repealing marihuana offenses) — Introduced by Representative David Simpson and filed in March 2015, this bill would remove all references of marihuana from Texas law and essentially repeal marijuana prohibition in the state. Thus, possessing, selling and growing marijuana in Texas would all become legal activities. “I am proposing that this plant be regulated like tomatoes, jalapeños or coffee,” Simpson said in a press release. HB 557 was referred in February to the Texas House Committee on Agriculture & Livestock.
Get the Help of an Austin Marijuana Defense Lawyer
While it remains to be seen how many—if any—of these proposed measures will be enacted, marijuana currently remains classified as a Schedule I controlled substance and possession of cannabis account for more than half of all drug arrests in Texas. If you have been charged with any type of marijuana crime, you should immediately seek the help of an experienced criminal defense attorney. The Law Office of Kevin Bennett will review your case during a free consultation when you call (512) 476-4626 today.