Hearing Alert: Hemp Bill 3948April 2, 2021
Medical Cannabis Bill HB 1535 Passes Out of CommitteeApril 8, 2021
Thank you Chairwoman and Committee Members. My name is Jax Finkel and I am representing myself and the Texas Chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, which focuses on marijuana law reform, and Foundation for an Informed Texas, which focuses on cannabis centric education. Thank you for hosting this hearing on the important issue of marijuana policy.
My gratitude goes out to the authors, Speaker Pro Tem Moody, Representatives Toth, Thompson, Zweiner, Canales, Wu, and Crockett. All of the bills before you are bills which do varying amounts of good and I support them all. We delivered binders to each of your offices with a comparison of the eight bills, recommendations, resources, and some personal stories. Several authors have asked for me to offer testimony on their bills and I will do so with brevity.
In 2019, over 45,000 Texans were arrested for minor possession1 with an estimated 30k being convicted. This is while 92% of burglaries, 89% of car thefts, and 77% of rape and attempted rape went unsolved in the same year.2 Let’s make sure that law enforcement can spend more time and effort on policing violent crimes and property crimes; and at the same time, save at least $311M in taxpayer dollars spent annually on enforcing low level marijuana possession laws.3
In Texans, Black people are 2.6 times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession than white people. The definition of white includes latinos. Arrests of Latinx individuals coded as white in the data likely artificially inflate the number of white arrests, leading to an underestimate of the disparity between Black and white arrest rates.4
Many urban areas have enacted deprioritization, first chance, and cite and summons programs to help mitigate the extreme cost of prosecuting for minor marijuana possession. This data highlights the disparity in enforcement.
- Dallas – Cite and Summons Program – 96% of those cited were black or latino.5
- Austin – Cite and Summons Program – 37% of those cited were black | 44% of those cited were latino.6
- Houston – Diversion Program – 50% of those in the program were black males.7
Regarding Law Enforcements Common Concerns:
- According to the National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine, marijuana does not contribute to reckless or violent behaviors.8
- The addition of a dispensary in a neighborhood leads to a reduction of 17 crimes per month per 10,000 residents, which corresponds to roughly a 19% decline relative to the average crime rate over the sample period. Results suggest that dispensaries cause an overall reduction in crime in neighborhoods, with no evidence of spillovers to surrounding neighborhoods as predicted prior to legalization. There is no evidence that increased marijuana use itself results in additional crime.9
- It is of note that in 2019, the clearance rate, or solved crimes, was at 8% for burglary, 11% for car theft, and 23% for rape and attempted rape.10 An estimated $14M each year is spent just on officer time to process people for marijuana possession.11 Surely, this time could be better spent.
- While people can consume too much cannabis and be very uncomfortable, the DEA reports there are no known fatal overdoses from consuming marijuana.12
- The side effects from consuming cannabis are generally mild. Some of these mild effects may include somnolence (sleepiness), thirst, or hunger. Usually, hydration, food, and sleep are all that are needed.
- Operating a motor vehicle under the influence of cannabis is a criminal offense in every state, irrespective of cannabis’ legal status under the law. Law enforcement already have tools to enforce DUI laws by the use of Standardized Field Sobriety Tests (SFST) designed from research sponsored by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
- In assessments of actual on-road driving performance, subjects typically demonstrate only modest changes in psychomotor performance following THC administration.13
- THC positive drivers, absent the presence of alcohol, typically possess a low — or even no — risk of motor vehicle accident compared to drug-negative drivers.14
- Data has not substantiated claims of an uptick in marijuana-induced fatal accidents in states which have regulated the use of cannabis for medical purposes, and some data has identified a decrease in motor vehicle accidents. Adult-use regulations have also largely not been associated with statistically significant increases in traffic fatalities, though researchers are still assessing longer-term trends.15
- It is of note that THC can last in the body’s system for 30 days or more after consumption. So a THC positive test does not indicate intoxication. Furthermore, non-intoxicating hemp products with 0.3% THC are legal in Texas.
I encourage you to take a look at the recent educational exhibits on penalty reduction and a regulated cannabis market and the accompanying sources. Please feel free to reach out to me with any questions you may have.
“The Economic Benefits of Regulating and Taxing Cannabis in Texas: An analysis of potential new revenue, job growth, and savings.” Vicente Sederberg, LLP. October 2020
 “Dallas Cops Are Still Citing-and-Releasing Mostly Black and Brown People for Pot” Dallas Observer, April 2018
Austin City Council’s Judicial Committee Meeting as reported by APD Assistant Chief Gay, September 13, 2019
National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine https://www.nap.edu/read/4421/chapter/5#401
 Not in my backyard? Not so fast. The effect of marijuana legalization on neighborhood crime, Regional Science and Urban Economics, 2019
 The Economic Benefits of Regulating and Taxing Cannabis in Texas, An analysis of potential new revenue, job growth, and savings. Vicente Sederberg LLP, Special Report, October 2020
DEA Drug Fact Sheet (2020) https://www.dea.gov/sites/default/files/2020-06/Marijuana-Cannabis-2020.pdf