Last update: October 26, 2010
Despite a 2004 poll showing that 75% of Texans support medical marijuana, lawmakers have yet to act to protect patients in the Lone Star State. It’s not too early to ask lawmakers to introduce and support legislation for the upcoming session, though. Send your state legislators a letter asking them to support medical marijuana legislation during the next session.
Previous Legislation: Medical necessity defense bill founders in committee
A 2009 bill that would have allowed seriously ill patients to raise a medical necessity defense to charges of possessing marijuana for medical use died in committee. The bill would have permitted physicians to make written or oral recommendations that, in the physician’s medical opinion, the potential benefits of marijuana would likely outweigh the health risks for a particular patient. If arrested for possession of marijuana, a patient with a recommendation from his or her physician would have had an affirmative defense to charges arising from his or her medical use of marijuana. If a court accepts such an affirmative defense, a patient could avoid jail time and fines. Such laws (like the common law defense necessity, which one patient successfully raised in Texas) do not protect patients from initial arrest and prosecution, however.
Efforts to reduce penalties for marijuana possession
A bill was introduced in 2009 that would have reduced the penalty for possessing one ounce or less of marijuana from a Class B misdemeanor (punishable by up to six months in jail and a fine of up to $2,000) to a Class C misdemeanor (punishable by a fine of up to $500). The bill received a hearing in the House Criminal Jurisprudence Committee, but unfortunately it never received a vote. Although it would have dramatically improved the status quo, the bill would still have saddled people with a criminal record simply for possessing a substance safer than alcohol.
During the 2007 legislative session, Texas enacted a law allowing law enforcement officers to issue citations instead of arresting adults who possess less than four ounces of marijuana. While it still remains a crime to possess any amount of marijuana for any purpose in Texas, this citation law was definitely a step in the right direction. Although citizens are still subject to the same penalties as before, police officers now have the option of issuing a citation to offenders rather than taking them into custody.
You can support efforts to decriminalize marijuana possession in Texas once and for all by writing to your legislators and asking them to support legislation reducing marijuana possession penalties.
Learn more about Texas’s marijuana laws
Did you know that an amazing 97% of all marijuana arrests in Texas during 2007 were for simple possession? That’s 68,758 people arrested just for possessing a substance that is safer than alcohol. If you think that it’s time for Texas law enforcement to focus on real criminals, please write to your legislators and urge them to decriminalize possession of small amounts of marijuana. — replacing the possibility of jail with a civil fine. You can also learn more about Texas’s marijuana laws by reading this report from economist John Gettman, Ph.D.
If you are an attorney, educator, physician, nurse, or member of the law enforcement community who believes that our current marijuana laws need reforming, please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org@mpp.org to see how you can be of special help.
Also, be sure to subscribe to MPP’s free legislative alert service today if you haven’t done so already.