Feb 14, 2023 - News

Bill would create path to legalize recreational marijuana in Texas

Illustration of a pattern of marijuana leaves filling the state of Texas.

Illustration: Lindsey Bailey/Axios

Texas cities and counties could legalize recreational marijuana if a new bill passes the state Legislature.

Why it matters: Two-thirds of Texans approve of legalizing marijuana for recreational use by people ages 21 and older, according to a recent poll by the Hobby School of Public Affairs at the University of Houston.

  • The same poll found that 81% believe possession of small amounts of marijuana should be punishable only by citation and a fine, similar to a traffic ticket.

What's happening: House Bill 1937, filed by Rep. Jessica González, a Democrat from Dallas, would allow counties and municipalities to make their own decisions regarding the recreational use of cannabis for Texans ages 21 and older.

  • Local governments could take action to allow adults to possess and transport up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana under the bill.
  • The bill would also impose a 10% tax on all cannabis products, which would be directed toward cannabis regulation, cannabis testing, government oversight and funding for schools.

Yes, but: Republican leaders including Gov. Greg Abbott and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick have repeatedly said they don't support legalizing recreational cannabis use.

State of play: Medical cannabis is legal in Texas in limited circumstances. The Texas Compassionate Use Program allows patients with designated conditions — including epilepsy, autism, cancer and post-traumatic stress disorder — to access cannabis oil with less than 1% THC.

  • Hemp cultivation was made legal federally by the 2018 Farm Bill and in Texas by House Bill 1325, which Abbott signed in 2019. Just a few years later, CBD shops are ubiquitous across the state.
  • Some cities and counties, including Dallas, Denton and Plano, have also taken steps to decriminalize marijuana — which usually amounts to not arresting or charging users in possession of small amounts of the drug.

Zoom out: Recreational cannabis use is legal in 21 states, and four more are poised to pass similar laws this year.

By the numbers: The UH poll found that 74% of born-again Christians support medical marijuana laws, 62% support decriminalization and 52% support legalization.

  • 73% of Latino, 66% of Black and 62% of white Texans support legalization, per the poll.
  • 40% of respondents said they think legalization would increase the use of marijuana by people under the age of 21.

What they're saying: "While Texas has made progress with the Compassionate Use Act, we have been left behind on a potential revenue source that would increase investments in public education, stop unnecessary arrests for cannabis possession, and create jobs in our state," González said in a statement.

Reality check: González filed a similar bill in 2021, but it didn't get to a vote.

  • Even if this bill gets voted on and passes, it's not likely that Abbott would sign it.

Get more local stories in your inbox with Axios Dallas.


Support local journalism by becoming a member.

Learn more

More Dallas stories

No stories could be found


Get a free daily digest of the most important news in your backyard with Axios Dallas.


Support local journalism by becoming a member.

Learn more