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How legal pot affects Texas

It has many effects.

In just two weeks in October, the legal landscape for marijuana use in North America changed dramatically.

First, Canada opened sales of legalized pot for recreational use, and then Mexico’s high court delivered a definitive ruling that citizens have the right to possess the weed for their personal use. That leaves Texas virtually surrounded by states that allow marijuana for medical use — but not for recreational purposes — as well as being sandwiched between two neighboring countries that have liberalized their stance on personal usage of the drug.

And while the Lone Star State is a long way from following the example of Canada and Mexico, there seems to be growing support for at least reducing stiff criminal penalties for possessing small amounts of the weed. Currently, possession of less than two ounces of marijuana is a class B misdemeanor, punishable by a six-month jail term and a $2,000 fine.

“Even in Texas, public opinion seems to have shifted from criminalization to at least decriminalization, with strengthening support for legalization,” said Nora Demleitner, a professor at Washington and Lee University School of Law in Virginia and the lead author of the textbook “Sentencing: Law and Policy.”


Despite the criminal penalties, Texas has two of the Top 10 consumer cities in the country. Houston occupies the fourth spot with an estimated 21 metric tons of weed consumed last year, after New York, Los Angeles and Chicago, according to the 2018 Cannabis Price Index from the German company Seedo, which tracks the market around the world. Dallas is number seven with 15 metric tons.

That high demand in Houston and elsewhere in Texas, some experts say, is not being met by traditional drug smuggling networks alone.

“Today in Texas, consumers easily find a wider variety of cannabis products than a few years ago coming from all over the place,” said Dean Becker, a Baker Institute contributing expert in drug policy.

Becker explained that states like Colorado, California and Oregon are growing more than their markets can absorb, and smugglers are flourishing moving the merchandise to other marketplaces. Mexico, he said, isn’t the main Texas supplier anymore as their producers are struggling to compete with the higher quality of U.S. grown products.


“The cannabis industry is a job creator, which Mexico and Canada realize, and it also cuts into the portfolio of criminals by making its use and sale a legitimate business that (creates) jobs and revenue,” said Grissom, the former federal prosecutor.

Grissom says Colorado is a good example, which reported total cannabis sales of $1.5 billion in 2017, and a staggering $5.7 billion since sales began in January 2014, according to the Colorado Department of Revenue.

“These funds did not go to criminals but to entrepreneurs who created over 20,000 new full-time jobs that paid a living wage as well as a new source of (tax) revenue for the state,” he said.

Overall, “the nascent U.S. cannabis market is already double the size of Canada’s, at $8.5 billion dollars,” said Brad Alexander, a senior adviser at McGuireWoods Consulting, a public policy advisory firm headquartered in Washington, D.C. He predicts that by 2022, this market could top $20 billion.

As the story notes, multiple DAs, mostly in big counties, are now de-emphasizing pot prosecutions, and Texas legalized – in a very limited way – a form of medical marijuana. Greg Abbott has made some comments recently about supporting a reduction in penalties for possession, but I’ll believe that when I see an anointed bill that is supposed to accomplish that. As for the prospects for legalization, I’ll just note that the arguments for it – economic benefit, especially as we are currently losing business from Texans who want to engage in it to neighboring states – sound an awful lot to me like the perennial arguments for expanded gambling. I don’t need to tell you how successful that pursuit has been. I think some small reforms by the Lege, with broader reforms pushed at the county level, will happen. Beyond that, keep your hopes in check.

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  1. Bill Daniels says:

    While Texas will no doubt be at the tail end of the pot legalization movement, and the legalized gambling movement, I predict the pot issue will get a serious look after Trump either has it descheduled with the DEA, or signs off on bipartisan legalization, or both. I like the bipartisan legalization, because it puts legislators who push for it on the hot seat. Now that there’s a president who will actually sign off on it, do they still want to SOLVE the problem, or do they want to not solve it so they can continue to virtue signal about it. Look at prison reform. Boom. it’s no longer an issue to virtue signal about, which probably disappoints a bunch of people who understand their goal isn’t to solve problems, but use them to keep getting reelected.

    This is a typical political issue. Most people on the left AND the right, and everywhere in between, want to see pot legalized, but for politicians, it’s better to keep it illegal and virtue signal about it. In other words, elect me and I promise to try and solve the problem.

    Remember this prediction. Before 2020, Trump will do his part to solve it, as mentioned above. That then puts the onus on Texas to end its prohibition.

  2. Manny Barrera says:

    Bill, only if Trump is not behind a wall of steel slats with some horizontal bars.

  3. Gary says:

    When Colorado sends its people, they’re not sending their best. They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems to us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people, perhaps even skiers.

  4. Pot heads make the best employees and contribute the most to society. California will soon be over flowing with money not that they have legalized and taxed it.

  5. Manny Barrera says:

    Paul they are second best, but far behind alcoholics.

  6. Christopher Busby says:

    We are a long way away from legal pot. You’ll need a Democratic trifecta in state government and even then it would be tough. Nationally the dominoes are falling and if the Republican leadership of the state had some common sense they would co-opt Democratic momentum by taking up this issue and be done with it. Instead it will be another motivator for Millenials and Gen Z to show up to the ballot box and vote for the Democratic ticket.

  7. C.L. says:

    I’d be more than happy to puff on a big phat one with POTUS….No, not Trump. Obama.

  8. Jules says:

    Indy-1 is not going to legalize pot.