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Marijuana reform is headed for Texas, but it probably won’t get here anytime soon.

During the 85th Texas legislative session, which ended in May, two cannabis reform bills made it further than pretty much any similar efforts have before. Although both laws had an apparent majority in the Texas House of Representatives, the session ended before they could be voted on.

One bill aimed to decriminalize possession of small amounts of marijuana. The other tried to create a real medical marijuana program. While the bills’ legislative journey says a lot about how much politicians in Texas have warmed to marijuana, it will probably be at least two or three more years before the state sees any big changes to its pot laws.

At the close of the 2017 legislative session, marijuana remains illegal to produce, possess, use or sell in Texas. While cities like Dallas have moved to implement cite-and-release policies, which allow police to send people holding marijuana home with a court summons, the state maintains its stiff penalties for drugs.

This year, however, legislators on both sides of the aisle made progress toward loosening and removing those restrictions. While Texas Gov. Greg Abbott won’t have any bills coming across his desk in 2017 to reform the state’s marijuana policies, there are signs that he or his successor might get an opportunity to do so in 2019. With an eye toward what’s coming, let’s take a look at how several marijuana bills performed this session

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soldier4They’ve come together as part of Operation Trapped, a veteran lobbying movement with connections to two other marijuana lobbying groups, Texas NORML and the Marijuana Policy Project. They’re supporting passage of state Sen. Jose Menendez’s SB 269, which seeks to expand the Texas Compassionate Use Act and allow any Texas resident with a doctor’s recommendation access to medical marijuana.

Patrick Moran, CEO of Texas Cannabis, plans to turn the former cotton gin in Gunter into a facility to produce cannabis oil.Mark Graham

Patrick Moran, CEO of Texas Cannabis, plans to turn the former cotton gin in Gunter into a facility to produce cannabis oil.

The old cotton gin on the west edge of Gunter seems an odd place to launch an economic boom. A breeze blows through broken windows and holes in its rusting, corrugated metal walls. Inside, a half-dozen or so squat machines that once separated cotton from seed sit corroding in a jumble of elevated metal walkways and busted machinery. Fistfuls of cotton, blackened by age and dirt, still rest in their bins.

High above, a buzzard ruffles its wings from its perch on the edge of a gaping hole in the roof. Visitors have driven it from the eggs it’s brooding in a tin flue near the gin’s floor, so Patrick Thomas Moran urges his guests to step outside.

“We don’t want to disturb the mamma buzzard,” he says.

A buzzard setting up a nursery on a factory’s floor is generally a good sign that the time has come to call in the wrecking crew and start looking for greener pastures, but Moran has plans to relight this old gin with a new cash crop, even if he has to ruffle a few feathers. The CEO and managing partner of AcquiFlow LLC, which bills itself as “the first open, transparent and legal Texas-based cannabis company,” wants to strip out the old machinery and build a cannabis oil production facility inside the gin’s old shell.

For more on the state of marijuana in Texas, visit the Dallas Observer‘s full story.

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So, there’s more good news on the marijuana legalization front, and this time, it’s coming to us straight from the Lone Star state.
This week, Texas State Representative Joe Moody introduced a bill that could potentially reduce the current state penalties for possession of small amounts of marijuana. Which, frankly, is needed. Marijuana laws in Texas are pretty darn ridiculous in their current state.

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Perhaps it’s not the greatest idea to use a taser on an elderly person during a traffic stop. That’s what a rookie cop in Texas is finding out, anyway. Victoria police officer Nathanial Robinson has been placed on administrative duty for accusations of excessive force stemming from a traffic stop where he tased a 76-year-old man twice as he lay on the ground.

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A bill filed Monday in advance of the upcoming session of the Texas Legislature would make the maximum penalty for the possession of less than an ounce of marijuana a $100 fine. The fine would not count as a criminal conviction and could not considered as such by anyone performing a background check.
Current Texas law classifies the possession of any amount of marijuana less than 2 ounces as a Class B misdemeanor, punishable by up to six months in jail and a fine of no more than $2,000. In 2007, the state passed a law allowing for marijuana users to cited for the misdemeanor and released. Harris, Dallas and Tarrant, the three biggest counties in the state, have not adopted cite-and-release, but Dallas has signaled its intention to do so as part of a January 2015 pilot program.

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Little Alex Hill would have been turned four-years-old last month. But rather than celebrating their child’s birthday, the toddler’s parents have only the bitter consolation of seeing a judge in Milam County hand Alex’s foster mother a life sentence for murder.
The life sentence is a small victory in the case of two-year-old Alex, whose July 2013 death was caused by devastating injuries at the hands of her foster mother, 52-year old Sherill Small.

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The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals has upheld a lower court’s ruling that warrantless blood-drawing in DWI cases is unconstitutional.
In a split 5-4 decision last week, the majority justices disagreed with prosecutors’ argument that driving on Texas roads is a privilege — not a right — and that “the driving public” is presumed to have read the statute outlining no-refusal blood draws. (We must say, there are plenty of roads in Houston that don’t really feel like a “privilege” to drive on.)
More at the Houston Press.

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Sitting cross-legged on the floor in her apartment outside of Houston, Faith’s mother looks over at the toddler repeatedly as she talks. There are no physical indicators that signal the start of a seizure, but Faith’s mother can tell one is on its way. Everything about raising Faith involves watching and waiting, and today is no different.
Suddenly, Faith’s mom jumps up, her words stalling mid-sentence, and makes her way to the mat where the chocolate-haired child is lying. She plops down next to her daughter, gives her moon face and chubby-cherub limbs a once-over, and places a hand across her tiny chest, feeling for any sign of what’s to come. It’s an unnerving ritual, the watching and waiting, but Faith’s mom can feel what is happening in her own bones. She knows that Faith is about to seize.

The Houston Press took a look at medical marijuana refugees from Texas, and it’s a compelling read.

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