Texas May Be the Next State to Legalize Marijuana
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Many people might not think of Texas as a state where marijuana legalization is possible. But the state's changing demographics have led to at least the potential for changes in cannabis laws.
There's also plenty of money involved. As data from other states attest, the legalization of marijuana paves the way for entrepreneurial opportunities, job creation, and increased tax revenue to go to projects that improve communities and support those most impacted by the War on Drugs.
Lawmakers have filed about two dozen marijuana-related bills have in the Lone Star State, according to cannabis advocacy organization NORML. They include proposals to expand the state's medical marijuana program, increase the amount of THC the state allows in cannabis products, and legalize adult-use cannabis.
Few expect adult-use legalization to become law in Texas, but there is strong backing for legislation in the other two areas.
Some Texans want to give more people access to medical marijuana.
Texas has one of the most restrictive medical marijuana programs in the country. The state currently ranks in the bottom tier of states to allow access to cannabis for medical treatment.
"We're pretty dang close to the bottom. We're pretty far behind," state Sen. José Menéndez told the Texas Tribune. He plans to push legislation in the 2021 session that will expand the program. Right now, Texans must have a physician recommend treatment for one of these seven conditions to use medical marijuana:
- Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis
- Incurable neurodegenerative disorders
- Intractable Epilepsy
- Multiple sclerosis
- Seizure disorders
- Terminal cancer
The state also heavily restricts the amount of THC that cannabis businesses can use in medical marijuana products. The levels are so low that NORML lists Texas as being a "medical CBD" state and not as having a full-fledged medical marijuana program.
The restrictions have kept many from enrolling in the Texas program. Even though Texas is the second-largest U.S. state with about 29 million residents, it has fewer people in its medical marijuana program than its much smaller neighbors, Oklahoma and Louisiana.
Texas is friendly to entrepreneurs, but not so much those in the weed industry.
Another big issue is how the state, known as being extremely business friendly, treats those in the cannabis industry. Fees in the business are "sky high," according to the Tribune. And the restrictions on THC content and the use of medical marijuana have hindered the industry, cannabis advocates say.
They also point out that expanding the marijuana industry could bring millions into the state, both for new businesses and in tax revenue. Like every other state, Texas is expected to face financial issues associated with the cost of dealing with the coronavirus pandemic.
"Here's this … billion dollar bird's nest that's sitting on the South Lawn of the Capitol, waiting for the right legislator to come to pick it up and take it inside, and to present it to the other legislators and say, 'Here you go. Here's a way for us to … [help] our citizens,"' Morris Denton, CEO of medical cannabis business Compassionate Cultivation, said at a conference last year, according to the Tribune.
There's also the issue of social justice, something that has driven legalization in other parts of the country. According to the Austin American-Statesman, advocates in Texas also believe that eliminating or reducing penalties for low-volume marijuana possession would bring more fairness into the system.
But the newspapers warned that any changes in marijuana law "won't be a cakewalk. Politically connected social conservatives and some law enforcement groups have helped derail such efforts in the past and are likely to come out in opposition once again."