News that Texas may have decriminalized marijuana sent the Internet abuzz Tuesday, igniting hopes that the Deep South may finally be loosening its grip on pot.
A closer look at the event will stop you from grabbing that celebratory vape.
The committee’s approval—while surprising—does little more than give the bill a new home, on the desk of a different committee that controls the calendar. According to experts, “It will likely stay there, and has virtually no chance of becoming law in a deeply conservative legislature.” Texas is not on the verge of a green rush to the border—far from it.
According to the Houston Chronicle, the event is being viewed as a “a milestone moment in Texas.” You know your state is a little bit behind the curve when a bill getting through to a calendar committee is heralded as a victory.
That’s not to say Texas hasn’t made any waves on the marijuana front. This week committees in both the Texas house and senate approved a bill that would allow cannabidiol (CBD) oil for medicinal purposes (most often used for to stop seizures in people with epilepsy).
While that’s also being trumpeted as a victory, it still needs a full legislative vote. In addition, increasing evidence shows that CBD oil—which contains no THC, the cannabinoid that gives the “high” feeling—is not as effective for treating those with seizures as oil that contains a small amount of THC.
“The idea of CBD only—these legislators are practicing medicine with out a license,” says Mary Lynn Mathre, president of both Patients Out of Time and the American Cannabis Nurses Association. “They don’t know what they are talking about. In clinical experience, physicians are finding that CBD-only oil may not be effective at all for some patients, or not as effective as when you add THC. Every patient is different, and a lot of them need the THC.”
Dean Becker, a reporter with KPFT-Pacifica radio in Houston, is a former cop, and an active member of drug law reform in the Lone Star state. He tells The Daily Beast that there were eleven marijuana bills and two hemp bills in the Texas legislature this session. “I find it incredible that any made it out of committee,” he says.
“We have made some progress, which is truly what is unexpected. I don’t anticipate that they’ll make it very far. Our governor has threatened to veto any bills that are presented,” says Becker. But for him, and others in his state, merely getting it out of the committee is a sign that “even in Texas, things are changing.”
But passing the bill is just the first step. Getting Texas authorities to abide by it could prove an even more difficult task. Becker points out that Texas already has a law on the books, HB 2391, from 2007, that says it’s not necessary to arrest or jail anybody for under 4 ounces of marijuana. “Herr Perry signed it, and yet 95 percent of district attorneys refuse to make use of that law.”
The Houston Chronicle reports that statewide, “There were more than 70,000 arrests or citations issued for marijuana-related offenses in Texas in 2012, 97 percent of which were for simple possession, according to supporters of the bill.” The Daily Chronic adds, “That same year, nearly 90 percent of all burglaries, including home invasions, and 80 percent of all motor vehicle thefts went unsolved.”
“In Houston, we arrest approximately 1,000 people each month for possession of weed, because DAs refuse to use this law,” says Becker. “They like to lock people up and make ‘em pay bail. Even if we pass these [new] laws, who knows if the District Attorneys will make use of them.”