Bill would create path to legalize recreational marijuana in Texas
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.
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