With the state’s budget taking a big hit from the pandemic, Democratic lawmakers took the opportunity to present their proposals to have Texas join the growing list of new states that have legalized marijuana.
Every year, over a billion in tax revenue from a mature market and hundreds of millions in savings on enforcement, thousands of jobs generated both directly and in a ripple effect of economic interdependency.
Joe Moody, Speaker Pro Tempore of the Texas House of Representatives.
According to the latest comptroller’s estimate, the coronavirus pandemic has made a $4.6 billion hole in the state budget, so it makes sense to consider that a legal marijuana industry could bring in hundreds of millions in tax revenue and create thousands of jobs.
Legalization has several benefits, the most obvious one for lawmakers: taxes. Taxes for cannabis sales would be 10%. The revenue will be shared between the Teacher Retirement System, cities and counties.
There are many other benefits that have been mentioned by lawmakers to legalize marijuana in Texas:
- No more arrests, keeping people from jobs and schools and housing.
- No more patients struggling with medicines that don’t work or hooked on opiates and other bad alternatives.
The legislative session begins on January, 12 2020 and lawmakers will be discussing bills to legalize marijuana for medicinal and recreational purposes, having filed three bills relating to marijuana and nine other bills relating to cannabis.
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Also, there are other bills to legalize high-THC cannabis for medical use, decriminalize small amounts of marijuana and put legalization before state voters on the ballot. Another would shield consumers from existing criminal laws for marijuana possession if they reasonably expected a product to be legal hemp.
Marijuana legalization in Texas still faces powerful opposition at the Capitol. Many past legalization proposals have received no attention from lawmakers. And less controversial measures, like lowering criminal penalties for marijuana possession, have been rejected by the Texas Senate.
Many advocates of legalizing marijuana in Texas agree it may be a long shot, and that chances for any of those bills to pass are slim, but as stated by our friend LMC from Let’s Talk Cannabis “Even though it’s probably not gonna get passed through legislation, it starts the conversation.
In Texas, past efforts to legalize or decriminalize marijuana have been blocked by Senate Republicans, but Moody said he remains hopeful. A 2019 survey indicated about 54% of Texans supported legalization of marijuana, and about 68% of Americans now favor legalization.
We have to recognize that marijuana arrests and prosecutions across Texas have been plummeting, most likely because a bill legalizing hemp passed last year and has thrown prosecutions into disarray. A report by the American Civil Liberties Union found that in 2018, Black people in Texas were 2.6 times more likely to be arrested on suspicion of marijuana possession than white people.
Under current Texas law, possessing any amount of marijuana is punishable by up to six months in jail and a fine of up to $2,000. Possession of more than two ounces could mean up to a year in jail, and more than four ounces is a felony.
Much of the senator’s argument for the bill is financial. Vicente Sederberg LLP reported last month that marijuana legalization in Texas could produce more than $1.1 billion in state tax revenue plus millions more in licensing and other fees.
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