Texas Governor Greg Abbott changes tune on marijuana policy

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While legalizing marijuana during the 2017 Texas legislative session remains unlikely, a recent statement from Governor Greg Abbott may give hope to those seeking to pass legislation which would expand Texas’ medical marijuana program.

In a statement to Houston-based KHOU after several measures were filed to legalize both recreational and whole plant medical cannabis, Press Secretary John Wittman said, “Governor Abbott opposes the legalization of marijuana in the State of Texas.”

This is a departure from a previous statement the governor made during the 2015 legislative session when he held a signing ceremony to sign the Texas Compassionate Use Program into law. That piece of legislation officially demonstrated that Texas government officials recognize that the cannabis plant holds medicinal value, despite the bill limiting medicine to CBD extracts which contain little or no THC, the ingredient in marijuana which provides its consumer with a “high.”

Despite signing the legislation, Gov. Abbott made sure to state that it does not open the door to broader marijuana legalization.

“It will however provide healing and hope for children that are afflicted by unrelenting seizures caused by epilepsy,” Abbott said.

“I remain convinced that Texas should not legalize marijuana nor should Texas open the door for conventional marijuana to be used for medical or medicinal purposes,” Abbott said. “As governor I will not allow it.”

Considering the further passage of both recreational and medical cannabis in other states, along with a push by veterans in Texas to obtain access to medical cannabis, Abbott may very well be signaling a minor shift in policy given that with his recent statement he did not include medical marijuana while stating that he opposes legalization.

A recent Texas Tegna Poll showed that 71 percent of Texas voters would support expanding the list of medical-marijuana qualifying conditions under the program. Additionally, delegates to the Republican Party of Texas State Convention voted to include the expansion of the Compassionate Use Program in their platform.

The plank, supported by 78 percent of GOP delegates, states “We call upon the Texas Legislature to improve the 2015 Compassionate Use Act to allow doctors to determine the appropriate use of cannabis to prescribed patients.”

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