Texas Republicans have come out in support of marijuana decriminalization in their official party platform. State GOP delegates also approved an expansion of medical marijuana access and support for industrial hemp at their convention.
Nearly 10,000 delegates attended the state Republican Party convention last week. Before Saturday’s vote on the platform, delegates had the opportunity to learn about cannabis policy and regulation. In a first for the convention, three pro-pot groups and one anti-pot group had booths in the exposition area.
The platform approved by delegates contained more than 330 planks covering policy issues ranging from gay rights to immigration. Of those, four are related to the regulation of cannabis.
One plank calls for a change in state law to remove criminal penalties for cannabis possession. Instead, civil penalties would apply to adults caught with an ounce or less.
“We support a change in the law to make it a civil, and not a criminal, offense for legal adults only to possess one ounce or less of marijuana for personal use, punishable by a fine of up to $100, but without jail time,” .
Currently, adults possessing up to two ounces of pot can receive a six-month jail term and a fine of $2,000.
Another platform item seeks a federal rescheduling of marijuana under the Controlled Substances Act. “Congress should remove cannabis from the list of Schedule 1 and move to Schedule 2,” according to the document.
Republicans also support an expansion of the state medical marijuana program with a call for “the Texas Legislature to improve the 2015 Compassionate Use Act to allow doctors to determine the appropriate use of cannabis to certified patients.”
Additionally, GOP delegates voted to “recognize industrial hemp as a valuable agricultural commodity.” They also urged “the Texas Legislature to pass legislation allowing cultivation, manufacture, and sale of industrial hemp and hemp products.”
Cannabis Activists React to GOP Platform
Cannabis activists applauded the party’s stance on cannabis issues. Heather Fazio of Texans for Responsible Marijuana Policy told Forbes that the proposals would be positive changes for the state.
“Texas Republicans, like the majority of Americans, are ready to see more sensible marijuana policies enacted,” said Fazio. “Our state wastes valuable criminal justice resources arresting between 60,000-70,000 Texans annually. Delegates took a stand this week for a better approach. While it would be preferable for cannabis to be de-scheduled entirely, this call by the Texas GOP signifies a very positive shift in opinion. Outright prohibition is not working and Texas Republicans want to see Congress take action to make cannabis more accessible.”
Fazio also said that more Texans would be able to access medicinal cannabis if the GOP proposals become law.
“Under the current [medical cannabis] program, most patients are being left behind,” she said. “Texas conservatives are seeing the value of medical cannabis and want to see more inclusive access. Now we will take this to the Legislature for action during the 2019 legislative session.”
Under current law, only patients with intractable epilepsy may use low-THC cannabis oil after receiving approval from two doctors. The new platform calls for doctors, not lawmakers, to decide which patients might benefit from medical marijuana.