Texas Court Rules Against State on Delta-8October 5, 2023
Wednesday, November 1, 2023 at 7pm CT
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This month Texas NORML Executive Director Jax James discusses the question: What’s going on with cannabis law reform right now?
The initiative seeks to end arrests and citations for adults who possess misdemeanor amounts of cannabis (under 4 ounces) within the city’s limits. The measure also prohibits police from issuing citations for charges related to the possession of marijuana paraphernalia.
Last week, advocates behind the Freedom Act Lubbock ordinance provided 10,540 signatures to the City Secretary’s office, well above the threshold of valid signatures required. Once the signatures have been verified, city officials will decide either enact or reject the measure. If they reject it, the measure will go before voters as a ballot question next spring.
Texas: Lubbock Advocates Submit Twice as Many Signatures as Needed To Force Marijuana Depenalization Vote
Voters in several Texas cities – including Austin, Denton, Elgin, Harker Heights, Killeen, and San Marcos – have approved similar ballot measures in recent years. In some instances, like in Harker Heights, local officials have attempted to halt the implementation of the measures following voter approval.
Bell County is currently suing Killeen to stop their implementation.
Since 2012, NORML has identified over 120 cities or counties nationwide that have passed ordinances providing for significantly lower cannabis-related penalties than those provided under state laws.
Texas Marijuana Arrests
In 2022, Texas police made just under 25,000 marijuana-related arrests, according to the FBI’s Crime Data Explorer. Over 98 percent of those arrests were for marijuana possession.
Under Texas law, possessing any amount of cannabis is classified as a criminal misdemeanor, punishable by up to 180 days in jail and a $2,000 fine.
Overall Arrests for Marijuana
Law enforcement officials made well over a quarter million arrests for marijuana-related violations in 2022, according to data compiled by the FBI’s Crime Data Explorer.
According to the online database, which was updated on Monday with data for the year 2022, police made at least 227,108 arrests for marijuana violations last year. Of those, 92 percent were for possession only. This total is a slight uptick from 2021, when the FBI reported a total of 219,489 marijuana arrests.
However, these totals are underestimates because a significant percentage of law enforcement agencies still fail to report their data to the FBI. For the year 2022, 83 percent of agencies — representing 75 percent of the total US population — reported their data, up from only 63 percent of agencies in 2021. Therefore, it is unclear whether the year-to-year uptick in reported marijuana possession arrests is due to changes in police tactics or due to more agencies reporting, or both. (Adding to this confusion, in some instances, the raw data provided by the agency in its downloaded zip files is inconsistent with the data published elsewhere on the website.)
In all, some 30 percent of all reported drug-related arrests in 2022 were for cannabis.
FBI: Police Make Over a Quarter Million Marijuana Arrests in 2022
Colorado Compliance: Underage Consumption
Colorado retailers are in strict compliance with the state’s minimum age laws and they are not selling cannabis products to underage patrons, according to data provided by the state government and first reported by Marijuana Moment.
Data for the year 2022 shows that underage operatives were denied access to retail cannabis products 99 percent of the time, up from 94 percent in 2016.
The findings are consistent with results from other states. For example, a 2022 inspection study of licensed retailers in California reported that marijuana businesses were “100 percent” compliant with the state’s ID verification policy.
Authors of the study concluded, “Underage youth are not obtaining marijuana at licensed recreational outlets.”
Another study, published in the Journal of Studies of Alcohol and Drugs, assessed retailers’ compliance in California, Colorado, and New Mexico. The study’s authors concluded, “Compliance with laws restricting marijuana sales to individuals age 21 years or older with a valid ID was extremely high and possibly higher than compliance with restrictions on alcohol sales.”
Data gathered from point-of-sale audits of randomly selected retailers in Denver, Los Angeles, Las Vegas, and Seattle similarly reported near 100 percent compliance with the law.
Data provided earlier this year by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that the percentage of high schoolers who reported having used cannabis over the past 30 days fell by nearly one-third over the past decade, during which time 23 states legalized the adult-use marijuana market.
Colorado: Compliance Check Data Confirms That Retailers Aren’t Selling Marijuana to Minors
Cannabis Law Effect on Traffic Fatalities
Changes in the state-legal status of cannabis are not associated with rising motor vehicle fatalities, according to an analysis by the news agency Quartz Media LLC.
Researchers analyzed data from 2016 to 2019. They excluded data from 2020 and 2021, which they determined to be “anomalous,” because the US as a whole experienced a 19 percent spike in traffic safety deaths during those years.
In the four legal states assessed, traffic deaths fell by an average of 12 percent in the three years immediately following the adoption of adult-use marijuana legalization. By contrast, deaths increased nearly two percent over this same time in the five control states. Nationwide, traffic fatalities decreased 10.6 percent between 2016 and 2019.
“Traffic fatality rates did not increase in any of the four states that legalized in 2016 during that three-year period,” their analysis reported. “Three of the four states saw a significant decrease in vehicle deaths over that span, while the rate in Maine showed no change. Massachusetts saw the biggest drop, as rates fell 28.6 percent in the three years following legalization.”
It concluded: “There are legitimate concerns around the marijuana legalization debate. … However, based on our research and the research of others, the effect that legal marijuana could have on traffic safety should not be one of those concerns.”
Analysis: State-Legal Cannabis Not Correlated with Increased Traffic Fatalities
Ohio Legalization Efforts
Two recently released polls show that Ohioans remain solidly behind an Election Day effort to legalize marijuana possession, home cultivation, and sales.
The first poll, compiled by Ohio Northern University, finds that just under two-thirds of Ohioans express general support for legalization. The second survey, conducted by Public Policy Polling, finds that 59 percent of voters intend to vote in favor of Issue 2.
The Issue 2 ballot proposal allows for adults to grow personal use amounts of marijuana at home and establishes a licensed market for the sale of cannabis products. If enacted by voters on Election Day (November 7th), the possession of marijuana will become legal for adults on December 7th. However, because the proposed measure is a statutory question rather than a constitutional amendment, state lawmakers have the option of amending its provisions legislatively.
Early voting has already begun in Ohio. According to media reports, voter turnout is already well above expectations, particularly in some of the state’s larger counties. If passed, Ohio will be the 24th state to legalize the adult-use marijuana market, and the 14th to do so by a public vote.
Ohio: Latest Polls Show Continued Support for Legalization Ahead of Initiative Vote
Federal Marijuana Banking Bill
The Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs is about to hold a first-ever markup hearing on cannabis banking reform legislation with the newly introduced SAFER Banking Act, and your senators need to hear from you to make sure the bill keeps moving toward a full vote in the Senate. This bipartisan legislation represents an improved version of the SAFE Banking Act – which has already been approved by the House of Representatives seven times – and which will allow state-licensed cannabis businesses to more easily access financial services such as simple bank accounts and traditional lending that are available to other legal businesses.
Lack of access to these services creates serious threats to the safety of cannabis consumers and employees of the businesses that serve them, limits transparency and accountability for the legal industry, and severely hinders the ability of small businesses to effectively compete with the underground market and large well-funded companies.
Please contact your Senators today and urge them to support and cosponsor the SAFER Banking Act:
Limiting Federal Discrimination for Past Cannabis Consumption
Tell your Representatives to support H.R. 5040, the Cannabis Users’ Restoration of Eligibility (CURE) Act. This long overdue legislation limits federal agencies’ consideration of cannabis use when making security clearance or federal employment suitability decisions, and allows those applicants who were previously denied employment or clearances to appeal those decisions.
Passage of the CURE Act would greatly diminish the discrimination that responsible cannabis consumers have long faced when trying to obtain federal jobs and security clearances. It would also improve both the operation of federal agencies and national security by significantly expanding the talent pool that is eligible for these roles.
Research shows that responsible off-the-job cannabis use does not negatively impact the workplace. More and more states are taking steps to protect the employment rights of cannabis consumers and improve the opportunities available to them. The federal government – as one of the nation’s largest employers – should do the same.
Contact your representatives and urge them to support the CURE Act:
Watch last month’s livestream regarding potential changes to the Texas medical cannabis program, Delta-8 ruling, and federal updates.