TX advocates push for legalization of weed in face of economic downturn

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Last year Go Green Botanicals co-owner Maurice Salazar and his business partners were forced to close two of their three local CBD shops due to the economic downturn caused by the coronavirus pandemic. 

The stores sold myriad cannabidiol products such as gummies, infused coffee beans, lollipops, caramels, and oils at locations in New Braunfels and in San Antonio at Alamo Ranch and North Star Mall.

While selling hemp-based products containing CBD – a compound found in cannabis that does not cause a high but has other relaxing properties – became legal the United States in 2015, Texas’ marijuana laws, including for medical use, are among the most restrictive in the nation. To a growing number of Texans, it was starting to look like a lost business opportunity.

Should marijuana products containing THC – another cannabis compount called tetrahydrocannabinol that is primarily responsible for marijuana’s euphoric high – be legalized in Texas in the near future, Salazar sees a wealth of opportunity for expanding his business based on what would become an entirely new agricultural industry in Texas.

“One new product could create tenfold the number of jobs and businesses” in Texas, Salazar said. 

That kind of potential for economic growth hasn’t gone unnoticed. Following the economic downturn caused by the pandemic, marijuana advocates are now pushing for the legalization of weed in Texas with renewed vigor. 

Texas is one of 13 states that have not yet legalized marijuana (or products containing THC) to some extent. Currently, 37 states have legalized marijuana for medical use and 17 states also have legalized it for recreational use.

Most recently, New York, Virginia, and New Mexico have legalized recreational marijuana. All states surrounding Texas have legalized medical marijuana as of this year. Medical marijuana is often used to treat PTSD, specific forms of epilepsy, and to help cancer patients regain their appetite.

The Texas House on Thursday approved a bill that would expand the state’s restrictive medical cannabis program to include those with chronic pain, cancer patients, and Texans suffering from PTSD, the Texas Tribune reported. House Bill 1535 also would allow the Department of State Health Services to add other conditions that would qualify an individual for medical marijuana through administrative rule-making. Currently, the Legislature must pass a law expanding eligibility when a medical condition is to be added.

Forty bills were filed in the Texas House and Senate this session related to easing the state’s marijuana laws. While some deal directly with the legalization of marijuana for medical or recreational purposes, others relate to the decriminalization of marijuana or to reducing penalties for possessing cannabis.

Last month, a bill to decriminalize marijuana possession in Texas was approved by the House. The legislation, House Bill 441 by Rep. Erin Zwiener (D-Austin), would prevent the loss of a driver’s license or the creation of a criminal record for possession of up to 1 ounce by reducing the penalty from a Class B to a Class C misdemeanor. A Class C misdemeanor is punishable by a fine of not more than $500. Punishment can also include up to 180 days of deferred disposition.

Under the recent passage of House Bill 2593, anyone who is found with more than 1 ounce but less than 2 ounces of cannabis concentrates could still be given a class B misdemeanor. A Class B misdemeanor is punishable by a fine of not more than $2,000, confinement in jail for a term not to exceed 180 days, or both.

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