The longtime stance of Texas officials to keep a tight rein on weed appears to be evolving toward liberation.
Last week, Texas Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller visited Compassionate Cultivation in Austin, one of the state’s three licensed cultivators of low-TCH cannabis for medicinal purposes. The Republican official then came out praising pot’s potential as a tool for healing.
“My purpose of coming today is to learn all I can about hemp, about THC, about medical marijuana,” Miller said. “I want to see what they’re doing out here, and how they’re able to help so many people.”
While at the facility, Miller met with a group of parents whose children use cannabis to treat autism and other medical conditions. That conversation apparently fired up the commissioner’s passion even further.
“I would certainly expand medical marijuana,” Miller said. “If it’ll help somebody, I’m for it. Whatever it is. I mean, a toothache, I don’t care. If it’s a cure, if it [alleviates] pain, we should be able to use that.”
Clarifying his stance, Miller added, “I’m not a recreational marijuana [advocate], but if someone has a condition that this chemical will help, they should be able to use it.”
Texas’s “medical marijuana program” (if you can even call it that) remains one of the nation’s most stringent in terms of qualification requirements and product potency, with THC capped at no more than 0.5 percent.
Still, as noted, cracks are forming in the Lone Star State’s hardline stance on weed as of late.
After the USDA legalized growing and processing hemp in 2018, Texas followed suit the following year and issued its first cultivation licenses in 2020. During his facility tour, Miller announced that, to date, more than 5,000 acres of hemp have been planted in Texas by more than 1,000 licensed farmers.
State data released last week also reported that weed arrests in Texas have declined by 30 percent between 2018 and 2019. Prosecutions have even dropped by more than half in the wake of hemp’s approval, mostly because cops can’t visually tell the difference between weed and hemp.
Texas’ medical marijuana regulations have similarly lightened up. At first, doctors could only prescribe cannabis to patients with epilepsy. Last year, Gov. Greg Abbott signed a bill that expanded allowable conditions to include amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, autism, multiple sclerosis, spasticity, and terminal cancer.
In 2019, the Texas House of Representatives voted 98-43 in favor of a proposal that would reduce the penalty for possession of an ounce or less to a $500 maximum fine and no jail time. Unfortunately, the measure has since been stalled in the Senate by Republicans who apparently refuse to abide by democracy.
Allowing Texans access to the weed they want has been a long time coming. A poll conducted back in 2017 found 83 percent of state residents supported cannabis policy reform, with 53 percent coming out for full legalization.
Here’s to hoping all Texas politicians follow and expand upon Commissioner Miller’s lead and, before voting on marijuana issues, they ask themselves: “What would Willie do?”