AUSTIN — The odds of Texas legalizing or decriminalizing marijuana this year are dwindling, dashing the high hopes of pot backers.
Efforts to legalize medical and recreational marijuana, reduce penalties for possession and provide a legal defense for medical use have been stalled by House leaders, but things look optimistic for a narrowly focused Republican proposal that aims to allow treatment for one type of epilepsy.
The measure by Rep. Stephanie Klick, R-Fort Worth, and Sen. Kevin Eltife, R-Tyler, would allow patients to treat their intractable epilepsy with cannabis oil that is low in THC, the psychoactive chemical in marijuana. Klick said she believes the bill will be approved by the House.
Parents told lawmakers Tuesday that they were concerned that the specific amount of THC listed in the bill is too narrow to be useful for all those suffering from that or similar seizure disorders.
“The amounts that we put in our bill were recommended by physicians,” Klick said. “The problem is we don’t have the data to support the higher levels.”
Rep. Bill Zedler, R-Arlington, said he supports the measure but is open to discussion about the parents’ concerns.
“You can’t listen to the stories without saying we need to do something,” Zedler said through tears Wednesday. “We want to do what we can.”
Public testimony on a broader medical marijuana bill lasted for five hours Tuesday night in the House Public Health committee. Most of the testimony came from parents of children with seizure disorders and veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder who want to use the drug to treat their symptoms.
Committee chairwoman Rep. Myra Crownover, R-Denton, wouldn’t say Wednesday whether she would let the committee members vote on the measures.
Three proposals that would reduce the penalties for possessing small amounts of marijuana and one that would legalize the drug altogether are stuck in another House committee, where no votes have been taken on the issues.
The chair, Rep. Abel Herrero, D-Robstown, said he needs more information from members of the business and medical community before he decides if he will give the committee a chance to vote on them.
Rep. Joe Moody, D-El Paso, author of a proposal that would make possession of less than 1 ounce punishable by a fine rather than jail time, said he would continue working with Herrero to address his concerns.