Cannabis activists from around the state will arrive at the capitol in full force this February to speak with legislators about reforming Texas’ marijuana laws.
During the 2015 legislative session over 300 Texans made the trip to Austin for a marijuana lobby day, many of whom were there for the first time. Ultimately a decriminalization bill would pass out of committee along with a surprising legalization bill, and a CBD medical bill became law.
Since then, a coalition of organizations dedicated to changing marijuana laws in Texas have buckled down even further with numerous training sessions, 17 in all, teaching hundreds of advocates how to effectively speak with legislators by presenting their stories and information.
A round of training sessions took place in October of 2016, reaching nearly every major region of the state. Now that the new legislative session has begun, more training sessions have taken place at the capitol building.
Heather Fazio, Texas Director for Marijuana Policy Project (MPP), is heading up the coalition Texans for Responsible Marijuana Policy. Working with numerous chapters of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML), she has placed a premium on legislative engagement.
“Constituent engagement in the legislative process is the most crucial tool we have as a grassroots movement. Educating ourselves and taking an active role in the legislative process is of the utmost importance,” Fazio says.
She adds, “Just this fall we worked with over 300 activists, providing them with the know-how to contact legislators, prepare testimonials, and empower their friends, family members, and neighbors. Sharing personal stories about how marijuana prohibition has affected our lives is key. Our representatives and senators need to know how an arrest or conviction for even small amounts of marijuana carries lasting impacts on the lives of average Texans. They need to know about how you or a loved one could benefit from safe and legal access to medical cannabis. Our lawmakers cannot adequately represent us in Austin if they don’t know where we stand on this and other issues.”
There will be an informational push at the capitol on Wednesday, January 25 to deliver fliers to the offices of state legislators in preparation for the lobby day. Attendees will meet briefly to review the materials and then break out into teams for the distribution.
On Wednesday, February 8 the official Constituent Advocacy Day (lobby day) will be held. Attendees will be briefed on the materials they’ll have and those who have never been to the capitol before will receive advocacy training. Afterwards, everyone will break out into teams and will collectively visit every legislator’s office.
Attendees should dress professionally and have comfortable shoes. Those interested in attending can register with Texans for Responsible Marijuana Policy, find a schedule of events for that day, and learn about parking here.
At least 17 cannabis-related bills will be considered by both the Texas House of Representatives and Texas Senate during the 85th Texas legislative session. The bills range in topic from medical marijuana, penalty reduction, special courts, drug testing, to full legalization.