Texas lawmakers dug in their heels on marijuana reform, says Baker Institute expert

EXPERT ALERT

Jeff Falk
713-348-6775
jfalk@rice.edu 

Texas lawmakers dug in their heels on marijuana reform, says Baker Institute expert

HOUSTON — (June 6, 2019) — The 86th Texas Legislature moved an inch — and no more — toward easing restrictions related to marijuana, according to a drug policy expert at Rice University’s Baker Institute for Public Policy.

Credit: 123RF.com/Rice University

Katharine Neill Harris, the Alfred C. Glassell, III, Fellow in Drug Policy at the institute, is available to discuss with the media the legislative session’s developments on this and related issues. She outlined her insights in a new post for the redesigned Baker Institute blog that was unveiled this week, http://blog.bakerinstitute.org.

“The session started optimistically for proponents of reform,” Neill Harris wrote. “Legislators filed a record-number 63 marijuana-related bills, and there was an outpouring of support for the various measures. Advocates, parents, caregivers, patients, veterans, medical professionals and policy experts (including your resident Baker Institute drug policy fellows) traveled to Austin to lobby for and testify in support of legislation to reduce penalties for marijuana possession and create a comprehensive medical cannabis program.”

Despite these efforts, and considerable media attention, only two bills made it to the governor’s desk, Neill Harris said: One related to hemp production, and the other a very limited expansion of the state’s restrictive medical cannabis program.

“Political calculations are largely to blame for the stagnation,” Neill Harris wrote. “Although polls consistently show that a majority of Texans support reducing penalties for marijuana possession and allowing medical access, approval for these measures is lower among more conservative voters, making it a difficult issue for elected officials from deep-red districts to support.

“The arguments presented in opposition to penalty reduction and medical expansion, which mainly came from law enforcement groups and some conservative legislators during House and Senate floor debates, reflected a persistent tendency to conflate these reforms with full-bore commercial legalization, and either an inability or unwillingness to understand the marijuana plant itself and the different policy schemes in question,” she wrote.

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The Baker Institute has a radio and television studio available for media who want to schedule an interview with Neill Harris. For more information, contact Jeff Falk, associate director of national media relations at Rice, at jfalk@rice.edu or 713-348-6775.

Related materials:

Neill Harris bio: http://bakerinstitute.org/experts/katharine-neill

Follow the Baker Institute via Twitter @BakerInstitute.

Follow the Drug Policy Program via Twitter @BakerDrugPolicy.

Follow Rice News and Media Relations via Twitter @RiceUNews.

Founded in 1993, Rice University’s Baker Institute ranks among the top three university-affiliated think tanks in the world. As a premier nonpartisan think tank, the institute conducts research on domestic and foreign policy issues with the goal of bridging the gap between the theory and practice of public policy. The institute’s strong track record of achievement reflects the work of its endowed fellows, Rice University faculty scholars and staff, coupled with its outreach to the Rice student body through fellow-taught classes — including a public policy course — and student leadership and internship programs. Learn more about the institute at www.bakerinstitute.org or on the institute’s blog, http://blogs.chron.com/bakerblog.

About Jeff Falk

Jeff Falk is associate director of national media relations in Rice University's Office of Public Affairs.