Public opinion and the political calculus are changing
Texas isn’t likely to be the next Colorado or California. Texas won’t be the next state to legalize recreational cannabis. However, there are some signals that show how much public opinion and political mentality are changing about it. These changes could represent an important progress during next year’s legislative session.
The mentality began to change almost 10 years ago. Lawmakers have tried to weaken the strict cannabis laws. However, those attempts were unable to move anything until 2015, when Gov. Greg Abbot signed the Compassionate Use Act, that legalized an specific cannabis oil for people who suffered from intractable epilepsy.
From that day only three dispensaries have opened to produce and sell the specific oil.
However, a recent state Republican and Democratic conventions gave the defenders of cannabis a reason to feel more optimistic.
During the GOP convention in San Antonio, assistants approved a plank supporting “a change in the law to make it a civil, and not a criminal, offense for legal adults only to possess one ounce or less of marijuana for personal use.” Democrats, who had been calling for cannabis decriminalization since 2012, began to call for full legalization.
“Marijuana is definitely something we’re going to see being talked about more and more.” said Heather Fazio, the coalition coordinator for Texans for Responsible Marijuana Policy. “The public is in favor of seeing marijuana laws reformed and we’re already seeing candidates start to talk about it.”
Only 16 percent of voters consider possession of marijuana should be always illegal; without considering any circumstances.
Most people in Texas are in favor of reforming the state’s marijuana laws. Many want the total legalization for personal use. William Kelly, a sociology professor at the University of Texas at Austin, said “voters would be hard-pressed to find a Democrat who isn’t in favor of more lax marijuana laws because most members of the minority party view drug and marijuana issues as a public health issue rather than criminal justice one.”
Many Democrats who are campaigning in the gubernatorial race are clearly pro legalization. Lupe Valdez said recently that “she favors decriminalizing marijuana, legalizing it for medical use and seriously discussing full legalization.”
Lupe Valdez sent an email to The Texan Tribune on which she stated: “Legalizing it for all forms opens up valuable funding potential, and the citizens of Texas deserve an open conversation about that possibility. Legalizing it for all forms opens up valuable funding potential, and the citizens of Texas deserve an open conversation about that possibility. I would support a movement in the state Legislature to bring this proposition before Texans by referendum through a constitutional amendment and ensure a path to safe, responsible consumption.”
Texas Democrats who want cannabis legalization for recreational use is nothing new. But what is kind of weird to politicians is the new position among Republicans to relax cannabis laws. Republicans have always dominated the political situation in the state and usually haven’t been vocal supporters of the issue. At this year’s convention, the Republican party approved five new marijuana-related planks , including one for supporting decriminalizing small amounts for personal use.