DFW NORML

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Texas: House Committee Takes Up 3 Bills On Marijuana Reform

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By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

Three bills taking different approaches to reforming marijuana laws in Texas got a hearing before the House Committee on Criminal Jurisprudence last week.

Supporters packed the only committee hearing scheduled on the bills in either chamber, reports Stanton Brashier at the Dallas Observer. Other hearings this session are seen as unlikely.

The first two bills, HB 325 and HB 414, would reduce possession about about nine grams of marijuana -- 0.35 ounces -- to a class C misdemeanor from its current status as a class B misdemeanor. They'd also drop possession of two ounces to a class B misdemeanor and under four ounces to a class A misdemeanor. These bills are backed by Reps. Harold Dutton Jr., and Gene Wu, respectively, both of Houston.

HB 507, from Rep. Joe Moody of El Paso, would reduce penalties for possession of less than an ounce of cannabis to a $100 fine and no jail time. "As a lawmaker, I have a responsibility to make sure we're spending our resources wisely and treating our people fairly," Moody said. "That's what HB 507 is about."

HB 2165, from Rep. David Simpson of Tyler, would effectively legalize marijuana with little regulation, "like tomatoes or jalapenos." Shaun McAlister, director of the Dallas-Fort Worth chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, said this one could be a stepping stone to more reform.

Texas: CBD Is Not Enough -- Legislators Introduce Real Medical Marijuana Bill

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By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

There are encouraging signs of actual marijuana law reform in Texas this week. One of the happiest indicators is that the introduction of limited "CBD-only" cannabis oil bills doesn't necessarily keep better medical marijuana legislation from being introduced.

You see, soon after state Sen. Kevin Eltile and state Rep. Stephanie Klick -- both Republicans -- introduced their plan to make a very limited subset of CBD oil available to an even smaller subset of patients who would benefit, the push-back started, reports Stephen Young at the Dallas Observer.

The law was misguided, said Shaun McAlister, executive director of the Dallas-Fort Worth chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (DFW NORML). McAlister pointed out that it failed to account for the complexity that makes cannabis an effective treatment for so many conditions.

Dean Bortell, the father of 9-year-old Alexis Bortell, who has intractable epilepsy, said the bill didn't go far enough, despite it being specifically targeted at his daughter's condition. The Bortells now live in Colorado after leaving Texas to find an effective cannabis-based treatment for Alexis, but they continue to fight for medical marijuana reform in the Lone Star State.

Texas: Group Hosts Conference Aimed Towards Ending Marijuana Prohibition

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By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

The Dallas-Fort Worth chapter of NORML, the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, held its first ever conference in downtown Fort Worth over the weekend. DFW NORML shared the message that criminal penalties should be removed for private possession and use of cannabis by adults.

"We want to minimize abuse and prevent its availability to kids by implementing age controls," said attorney Keith Stroup, who founded NORML back in 1970, reports CBS DFW. Stroup was one of many speakers at the event which also featured local attorneys, activists, law enforcement officials and former California Superior Court Judge Jim Gray.

Speakers discussed the failure of the Drug War, the cost benefits of cannabis legalization, and the need for allowing compassionate care with medical marijuana.

"The idea that marijuana is a Schedule I drug, that it has no medicinal use, is ludicrous," said Judge Gray, citing drugs like Marinol, a synthetic form of THC created by the pharmaceutical industry and classified as a Schedule III drug, available by prescription.

Gray, who served on the Orange County Superior Court from 1989 to 2009 and spent most of his career dealing with drug-related issues, says he's never used an illegal drug. But he's an outspoken critic of the War On Drugs, and was also the Vice Presidential nominee of the Libertarian Party in the 2012 election.

Texas: Activists Say Lone Star State Moving Towards Marijuana Legalization

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By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

Optimism is a good thing, don't you think? Some activists say FBI crime statistics will help move Texas closer to legalizing marijuana.

Mason Tvert of the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP) points to new crime stats showing African Americans, while only making up about 12 percent of Texas' population, are arrested far more often than whites for marijuana possession, reports CBS DFW.

"There is no logical reason why law enforcement officials should be spending their time arresting and prosecuting adults simply for possessing a product that is objectively less harmful than alcohol," Tvert said.

"It is the 15th highest arrest rate and right now, black Americans are being arrested at more than twice the rate as white," Tvert said. "Communities of color are really facing the most enforcement despite the fact that they use marijuana at the same rate as whites."

Marijuana prohibition costs U.S. taxpayers $41.8 billion per year, according to the MPP. Tvert said law enforcement needs to prioritize its crime-fighting efforts.

"We are spending our law enforcement resources arresting adults for marijuana, when we could be using those resources to address serious crime," he said.

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