Texas has had a tumultuous relationship with cannabis. At one point in time (1931-1973) simple possession could result in a life sentence. Sounds scary, because it is, but the lone star state is starting to change it’s tune when it comes to cannabis. As recent as 2015, recreational cannabis initiatives have made their presence known in Texas. Being such a conservative place, it’s hard to imagine this happening but a state representative used religious reasoning to propose recreational legislation. David Simpson said, “I don’t believe that when God made marijuana, he made a mistake that government needs to fix.” This bill made some impact, gaining a majority of support in the House Criminal Jurisprudence Committee. However, it was not accepted to make it further on the floor of the house in the limited time remaining in the legislative session.
In October 2014, Harris County District Attorney Devon Anderson announced the First Chance Intervention Program, under which persons possessing two ounces of cannabis or less could be offered a diversionary program of 90 days of community service or drug education, in place of criminal charges and imprisonment. The program became effective January 2016.
In 2017, newly-elected District Attorney Kim Ogg stated that Harris County would no longer imprison people for any cannabis possession misdemeanors, stating, “I’ve never felt good about putting marijuana users in the same jail cells as murderers. It’s just not fair, it doesn’t make any sense, and our country is resoundingly against that.” As a result, complete decriminalization for possession of under four ounces of cannabis began on March 1, 2017, with no charges, ticketing, or criminal record.
But the big news as of late is that CBD has just become way more accessible to those who need it. On the 1st of June 2015, governor Gregg Abbot signed the Texas Compassionate Use Act, allowing the use of low-THC CBD oil to treat epilepsy in Texas. But Abbott has said, “I remain convinced that Texas should not legalize marijuana, nor should Texas open the door for convention marijuana to be used for medicinal purposes. The Act passed by a House vote of 96-34.
It’s been some years since this happened, and Texas government officials have been preparing. Now, as it stands, there will be three companies expected to be open by early 2018.
Consortium Texas, a branch of Miami-based Consortium holdings, was awarded the state’s first medical marijuana license on September 1st. They will operate the Knox Medical dispensary in Schulenberg. Currently, they are growing cannabis at this location and will be ready for distribution by the end of the year.
According to the Compassionate Use Act, licensed dispensaries will be allowed to grow and sell medical marijuana to Texans with a rare form of intractable epilepsy. For someone to receive medical marijuana multiple neurologists need to be involved. So for many reasons, this isn’t quite like other medical cannabis regimes operating throughout the country.
Compassionate Cultivation and Surterra Texas are also awaiting final reviews by the Texas Department of Public Safety before being awarded licenses. The Texas legislature is requiring the Department of Public Safety to issue at least three licenses but not more than is necessary to provide access statewide.
Another major reason why their system is going to be different in Texas is that they won’t actually be selling any products from their dispensaries. Instead, dispensaries will act as hubs for local delivery services across the state. These businesses will service patients and physicians.
The businesses that are going to operate as dispensaries are going to be required to pay a 480,000 fee to get initially licensed in Texas. They will be faced with a 320,000 renewal fee almost every two years.
You might think that this is such an incredibly small market why does it matter. After all, it’s just three businesses operating to service people with one single condition. And legislators are adamant that this is not the beginning of the long road to recreational cannabis. But the way things have played out across the country, it seems this might be the beginning of the end for prohibition in Texas.
It will be interesting to see what plays out in Texas. Some of their legislators are on board with changing their stance on cannabis, but others are very adamantly against it. It’s going to be a fight, and it’s going to happen in the coming years. Especially since they have made these first initial steps, Texans are going to be able to see for themselves the benefits of a legal cannabis industry.