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In 2015 lawmakers in 21 states, including Texas, considered passing bills to legalize marijuana. In fact, two bills that would have decriminalized marijuana possession in Texas were approved by a committee in the legislature, but neither of the measures became law.

Steps toward meaningful marijuana reform were taken, though. The state legislature and the governor enacted a bill that legalizes the limited use of cannabis oils to treat intractable epilepsy, and while the new program is very limited in scope, the stage is now set for broader reform.

Why have advocates for marijuana reform criticized the Texas Compassionate Use Program?

The medical marijuana bill signed into law by Gov. Greg Abbott created the Texas Compassionate Use Program, which allows doctors to prescribe cannabidiol (CBD) oils to patients with intractable epilepsy. The oils can contain only trace amounts of THC, which is the psychoactive compound in marijuana.

There are two problems with the program, however. First, federal law prohibits doctors from prescribing medical marijuana, so any Texas doctor who does could face serious consequences. Marijuana reform advocates are calling for a change in the law that allows doctors to "recommend" rather than "prescribe" medical marijuana. The difference is that recommending medical marijuana is protected as free speech.

Second, reform advocates say that whole-plant marijuana is more effective than CBD oils in treating medical conditions, including intractable epilepsy.

This is not the end of the road. Advocates and some lawmakers hope to improve on the current program in the next legislative session.

Changing laws that relate to controversial issues takes time. The same goes for marijuana reform.

Consequently, one reality about Texas law is that each year in our state more than 70,000 people are arrested for marijuana. In fact, about 97 percent of those arrests are for possession of no more than 2 ounces. That kind of low-level offense is punishable by up to 180 days in jail and a fine of up to $2,000, plus possible collateral consequences such as job loss, difficulty finding housing and driver's license suspension.

At Hoelscher Gebbia PLLC, we are active in the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML), and we fight to protect the rights and freedom of people accused of marijuana crimes.

Be sure to check back here and follow our Facebook page to stay abreast of criminal law and marijuana issues in Bexar County and throughout Texas.

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