A plurality of state voters seems to want legal marijuana in Texas. Even state leaders acknowledge legalization could help save the state’s budget shortfall caused by the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic.
But that doesn’t change the fact that legal marijuana in Texas doesn’t look like a likely event anytime soon.
The nation’s second largest state, Texas joins Georgia and North Carolina as the lone holdouts among the top 10 most populous states when it comes to cannabis. None of them have made either medical or adult-use cannabis legal. And with 29 million residents, Texas has about 10 million more people than the other two states combined.
In a recent interview, state Speaker of the House Dennis Bonnen, a Republican, said that legal marijuana in Texas could help with the state’s budget shortfall, but not enough to make it a priority, according to Marijuana Moment. And when asked if he would vote for it, Bonnen simply said, “No,” and then added that he believes legalization creates financial issues that offset the tax gains for the state.
Texas Remains More Conservative on Marijuana
Part of the issue with legal marijuana in Texas is the state’s leadership. As the November 2020 elections approach, most Texas leaders are conservative Republicans. That includes Bonnen, Gov. Greg Abbott and even the two high-profile U.S. senators, John Cornyn and Ted Cruz.
Under their guidance, Texas does not allow any type of cannabis sales. For good or ill, it’s a state slow to change the status quo on most issues.
Another issue is that even the state’s liberal voters seem conservative when compared to the rest of America. In a 2020 survey of likely Democratic primary voters, 38.7% said they support making marijuana legal for recreational and medical use. Just over 21% said they support medical marijuana legalization only, while just shy of 30% said they don’t support legalization, but do support decriminalization of marijuana.
Keep in the mind, those are the state’s Democrats.
Overall, though, a plurality of voters supports legal marijuana in Texas. A survey of statewide residents found that 38% support full legalization, while 35% said it should be legalized for medical purposes only. Only 15% said it should not be legal at all.
Texas Marijuana Advocates See Hope
If you’re a cannabis consumer in Texas, don’t give up hope. The state’s political leaders have been so set against marijuana legalization that cannabis advocates saw hope in Bonnen’s comments.
Heather Fazio, director of Texans for Responsible Marijuana Policy, told Marijuana Moment that at least lawmakers who have opposed legalization are now “taking a more serious look at the financial benefits of doing so.”
She said legal marijuana in Texas could mean as much a $1 billion a year in sales tax revenue alone, not to mention the businesses and jobs that legalization would create in a state with almost 30 million people.
In the meantime, small steps are being taken by cities. For example, the police chief in Austin, by far the most liberal of the big cities in Texas, recently said that his officers will no longer charge people with misdemeanor marijuana possession.
In a memo to city leaders, Chief Brian Manley wrote that his department will stop arresting or issuing citations to people who possess small amounts of marijuana “unless there is an immediate threat to a person’s safety” or the arrest is part of a larger, felony-level investigation.
A small step, but every step counts in the slow march toward legalization in Texas.