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Beto for legalizing weed

I do think this is a winning campaign theme.

Beto O’Rourke

At a crowded rally in downtown Austin, Beto O’Rourke ticked off his usual laundry list of campaign promises: stabilizing the power grid, rolling back the state’s new permitless carry law and expanding health care access.

But the El Paso Democrat got some of the loudest cheers of the night when he promised to legalize marijuana in Texas, something he said “most of us, regardless of party, actually agree on.”

“I’ve been warned that this may or may not be a popular thing to say in Austin, Texas,” O’Rourke said to the crowd gathered in Republic Square Park in December. “But when I am governor, we are going to legalize marijuana.”

The support is nothing new for the gubernatorial candidate. O’Rourke has championed legalization efforts throughout his political career, ever since his time as a member of the El Paso city council. He also nodded at the policy throughout his failed campaigns for U.S. Senate and for president.

But in his early run for governor, O’Rourke, who declined to be interviewed for this story, has repeatedly mentioned legalizing marijuana on the campaign trail across Texas. Advocates hope the increased attention will give momentum to legalization efforts in a state with some of the harshest penalties and highest arrest rates for marijuana possession.


If O’Rourke becomes governor, his plans to legalize marijuana would face another set of hurdles in the form of the Texas Legislature, particularly Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, who leads the state Senate.

After the House in April 2019 gave preliminary approval to a bill that would have reduced criminal penalties for Texans possessing small amounts of marijuana, Patrick declared the measure dead in the Senate.

There’s been some momentum for more progressive marijuana policies within Patrick’s party in recent sessions. In 2019, state Rep. Stephanie Klick, R-Fort Worth, and state Sen. Donna Campbell, R-New Braunfels, filed bills that would relax laws restricting medical cannabis access. Both of those reforms failed to become law. But Gov. Greg Abbott in May did sign a watered-down expansion of Texas’ medical marijuana program to include people with cancer and post-traumatic stress disorder.

Patrick did not comment for this story. In a previous statement to The Texas Tribune, a Patrick spokesperson said the lieutenant governor is “strongly opposed to weakening any laws against marijuana [and] remains wary of the various medicinal use proposals that could become a vehicle for expanding access to this drug.”

Abbott didn’t answer questions on his position regarding marijuana legalization.

Legalization advocates hope O’Rourke’s candidacy can move opinions among state leaders on relaxing marijuana restrictions.

“Hopefully with Beto O’Rourke presumably being the Democratic nominee, we can push the other candidates in the race to talk about this issue more, to come to the table and have a conversation about how these policies are having negative impacts on our state,” said Heather Fazio, director of Texans for Responsible Marijuana Policy.

Marijuana legalization draws some broad support across the state. According to a June 2021 University of Texas/Texas Tribune Poll, 60% of Texas voters say at least a small amount of marijuana should be legal. That figure includes 73% of Democrats, 74% of independents and 43% of Republicans.

Mike Siegel, the co-founder of Ground Game Texas, a nonprofit focused on supporting progressive policies around “workers, wages, and weed,” said the issue is an opportunity for O’Rourke to reach independent or nonaligned voters.

“[Marijuana policy] is a major opportunity for [O’Rourke] to reach out to middle of the road, independent or nonaligned voters and even some Republican voters,” Siegel said. “A governor’s race that’s high-profile like the one that is coming up, where it could be Beto O’Rourke versus Greg Abbott, that’s the best opportunity to push these populist wedge issues.”

But Joshua Blank, research director for the Texas Politics Project at UT-Austin, said marijuana legalization isn’t a “terribly important issue” for voters on its own. Its political salience depends on the issues tied to the policy, he said, whether that is the economy, criminal justice system or health care.

As the story notes, this is a longstanding issue for Beto, going back to his days on El Paso City Council more than a decade ago as well as his time in Congress. I do think this is an issue that can move votes and motivate less reliable voters, though of course it has to be part of a bigger structure. I could see the overall message as being basically that Abbott is out of touch with what typical Texans want, with “not freezing to death because of massive power grid failures” being the first item on that list. Basically, how effective this will be as a campaign issue is largely what Beto can make of it. For now, I’m happy to see stories like this one.

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  1. Blank says:

    Long overdue.

  2. Mainstream says:

    A lot of libertarian/Republicans will like that position, but I am doubtful they will cross over for Beto. These same folks are often fervently pro gun rights/2nd Amendment activists. Many did cross over, however, for Kim Ogg a few cycles back in connection to marijuana prosecution attitudes of the candidates for DA then.

  3. Flypusher says:

    Legalize it, regulate it, tax it.

    I don’t partake of it, but I find no valid pharmacological reason for its Schedule 1 rank or even outlawing it.

  4. Jason Hochman says:

    They should legalize it, and doctors should refuse to treat anyone who gets lung cancer from smoking it.

  5. C.L. says:

    Colorado has made over $1.6B in the past six years from pot sales.

    Do the math, Texas Lege. Maybe use the money to shore up power plant infrastructure.

    Dr. Hochman, there’s almost no scientific evidence that marijuana causes lung cancer….oh, and yeah, there’s that Hyppocratic Oath thing.

  6. Paul Kubosh says:

    Legalize everything. How is that Bail reform working for you. No responsibility no accountability. Ridiculous.

  7. Jason Hochman says:

    CL, there is ample evidence that marijuana contributes to lung cancer:

    Results: At the baseline conscription assessment, 10.5 % (n = 5,156) reported lifetime use of marijuana and 1.7 % (n = 831) indicated lifetime use of more than 50 times, designated as “heavy” use. Cox regression analyses (n = 44,284) found that such “heavy” cannabis smoking was significantly associated with more than a twofold risk (hazard ratio 2.12, 95 % CI 1.08-4.14) of developing lung cancer over the 40-year follow-up period, even after statistical adjustment for baseline tobacco use, alcohol use, respiratory conditions, and socioeconomic status.

    That Hippocrytical Oath thing has been suspended. Doctors can refuse to treat people who don’t have a COVAIDS vaccine, even though the vaccines don’t stop you from getting it, spreading it, and may even cause you to be more susceptible to variants. In fact, in my backyard I have even been reading up now on how the demented Biden forced vaccination may be contributing to antibody dependent enhancement, making the vaccinated more likely to get variants, and making them a terrible threat to the unvaccinated.

  8. Flypusher says:

    Compare pot to alcohol and tobacco, which are legal for adults to use. How is pot more dangerous?

    Only science-based answers will be accepted.

  9. Jason Hochman says:

    Pot is no more dangerous than alcohol or tobacco, and probably safer than most prescription drugs. Doctors should not treat anyone who smokes, chews, vapors, or boozes. Anyone who is overweight should not be treated, either.

  10. Paul Kubosh says:

    J. H.

    Pot is no more dangerous than alcohol and tobacco. Exactly. Alcohol and Tobacco kills many people every year. Why should we then legalize it. Just unvbelievable.

  11. Flypusher says:

    How many people die from pot in the states where it was legal (as compared to alcohol or tobacco)?

    Are you arguing for Prohibition 2.0?

  12. […] in favor of being less harsh about pot, likely in recognition of the polling on this issue and Beto’s stronger pro-pot stance. I don’t know how much that complicates things for the keep-pot-criminal crowd, but […]

  13. Jason Hochman says:

    I am not for prohibition. But then again, let’s consider what, from my experience, seems a big difference in the users. While pot smokers want to get intoxicated (high) from using it, the majority of people who drink alcohol are not trying to get drunk. It is a social activity, where many people have a glass of champagne at a wedding, or a drink at dinner, or after work, but they aren’t getting drunk. Wine is also used in religious rituals. People into marijuana are obsessed with it. The drug hijacks their minds. I would also agree that a lot more people die from alcohol and tobacco.

  14. Flypusher says:

    Dude, you don’t have to be falling down drunk to experience the effects of alcohol. If you are drinking to unwind, you’re experiencing the intoxication effect. There is a range of effects. This is as bullshit as your Covid takes. Lots of people like to alter their consciousness a bit, and often the designation of what is socially acceptable for that purpose and what isn’t is totally arbitrary. I know people who use pot for the exact same reasons you cited for alcohol, and they’re functioning citizens. What is the pharmacological reason for banning pot but allowing alcohol?

  15. Jason Hochman says:

    Dude, I am fine with legalizing them all. Marijuana has been used for a long time, just as alcohol. You must not know many people who are Deadheads, there are some among them who are completely obsessed with weed.

    Then again there are alcoholics. From the martini at lunch crowd to the housewife who sips all day, to panhandlers on the street.

    My Covid takes? Have you been paying attention to the Covid experts? Finally Mass Media Approved Expert Dr. Leana Wen said that cloth masks are merely “face decoration.” Didn’t I tell you months ago that masks had very little efficacy? The surgical masks help a little. I told you that a long time ago.

    Didn’t I tell you that you wasn’t going to get to COVID ZERO with vaccines when there are animal reservoirs? They are admitting that now, too. But they knew it from the start.

    And now, the CDC has reduced the isolation time from ten days to five days. Why? Because all of the stuff the CDC told you was Misinformation. Lies, or guesswork dressed as expertise. I am sorry your narrative is broke.