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What's happening with marijuana law reform in Texas? 3 signs change might be coming

Three major marijuana bills made it to the Texas legislature last session, but only one passed. This bill legalized extremely limited low-THC medical marijuana access to patients with epilepsy -- specifically allowing them to use cannabidiol (CBD) oil for their condition. The other two bills that did not pass would have decriminalized marijuana possession, and legalized recreational use of marijuana for adults.

So what's next when the Texas legislature reconvenes in January 2017? Although many were disappointed that the legalization was so limited, the action set the stage for more possible reform in the upcoming session.

Veterans are working to expand legalization of medical marijuana.

Veterans experiencing post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, are making a case for legalizing use of medical marijuana for conditions like theirs. According to Texans for Responsible Marijuana Policy, veterans plan to hold a conference this October at the Austin capitol building to voice support for measures to legalize this type of use. Their movement is called "Operation Trapped."

Lawmakers expect to propose bills to decriminalize marijuana possession.

Texas state Rep. Joe Moody (D-El Paso) expects more medical marijuana use bills to be filed next legislative session. The Legislature reconvenes in 2017. Rep. Moody proposed a key bill (that did not pass last session when time ran out) that would have changed criminal penalties for possession of up to an ounce of marijuana, to a civil fine of $250. The bill would have helped thousands of Texans avoid arrest and criminal conviction for a small marijuana possession. A similar bill is expected to be introduced in 2017. State Rep. Jason Isaac also supports decriminalization of marijuana, but not legalization, according to Texans for Responsible Marijuana Policy.

Texas has some of the strictest laws and penalties surrounding marijuana.

In the meantime, Texas has strong laws and penalties against marijuana possession and sale. This month, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration listed cannabis alongside the world's deadliest drugs, and marijuana is still illegal under federal law. It is up to states to decide their own laws and penalties regarding marijuana.

In Texas, conviction of two ounces or less of marijuana possession carries a misdemeanor penalty and maximum jail time of 180 days, and fines up to $2,000. Possessing two to four ounces of marijuana is also a misdemeanor, with up to one year of jail time and a $4,000 fine. Possession of more than four ounces is a felony in the state. Possession of four ounces to five pounds carries a maximum jail sentence of two years and fines up to $10,000. Possession of five to 50 pounds, a felony, carries a maximum sentence of 10 years and a fine up to $10,000. Possession of 50 to 2000 pounds carries a maximum sentence of 20 years and fines up to $10,000. More than 2000 pounds of marijuana possession carries a maximum sentence of 99 years and fines up to $50,000.

We at Hoelscher Gebbia PLLC are active in the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) and fight to protect the rights of those accused of crimes involving marijuana.

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