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Texas has something of a reputation for being a bastion of traditional American values. But like it or not, these are changing times, both in the Lone Star State and across the Union. Changing attitudes, changing demographics and, perhaps the most influential of all, changing fiscal deficits mean that the two biggest legislative hot potatoes that are circulating around the USA – those relating to gambling and to marijuana – will be forced to the top of the agenda.
The gambling question is one that we will save for another day – and that the State Senate will almost certainly push back to another year. But where weed is concerned, there is a genuine possibility that legalization could be on the agenda. Could Texans really be smoking weed and planting cannabis seeds to grow their own plants this time next year?
Better access to medical marijuana
36 states have now legalized medical marijuana, and 16 allow recreational weed. Those are important numbers, as they show that Texas is now swimming against the tide and is ranked in the lowest tier of states in terms of providing access to cannabis for purposes of medical treatment.
State Senator José Menéndez told the Texas Tribune “We’re pretty dang close to the bottom. We’re pretty far behind.” He is championing a legislative push to get the medical cannabis program expanded this year. As things currently stand, Texans can access marijuana if they have one of seven specific conditions, which include incurable degenerative disorders, MS and terminal cancer – and even then, only if they have a referral from their physician.
Even if these conditions are met, the THC levels permitted under Texas law are so low that what is called medical marijuana is classified by NORML as “medical CBD.”
Could cannapreneurs change the tide?
Clearly, Texas’ medical cannabis program, such as it is, is overdue for reform. Bu that is not the only angle from which the state senate is likely to face pressure on the question of cannabis.
This is a state that has always taken pride in its attitude to entrepreneurship and free enterprise – surely great examples of those American principles we mentioned earlier. However, its attitude to cannabis is rapidly becoming incompatible with this. The simple truth is that in what has been an incredibly challenging year for everyone, the cannabis industry is one of the few that is thriving and making money. Yet exorbitant fees and crippling restrictions on THC content make it next to impossible for cannapreneurs to conduct their business here.
Reform could bring in millions in tax revenue, and right now, that is a difficult proposition to ignore. Morris Denton is CEO of Compassionate Cultivation, a Texas-based medical cannabis business. At a conference last year, he said: “Here’s this billion-dollar bird’s nest that’s sitting on the South Lawn of the Capitol, waiting for the right legislator to come to pick it up.”
Cannabis reform will not be easy, and will have its opponents. But right now, the stars are in alignment like never before, and there is a genuine feeling that change could be in the air.