What will be the factor in legalizing cannabis in an uncertain election cycle in Texas?

Depending on how you view the past few months, Texas may be heading for minor liberal reform, or conservatives could double down on its dominance.

The past few months, ranging from gun tragedies to court rulings to special elections, highlight a busy and somewhat hazy Texas political landscape as November approaches.

The recent back-and-forth movement leaves most sources unsure of where Texas stands after Election Day. However, many seem firm on two points:

Texans are frustrated and most support the legalization of cannabis.

A lot of mess with Texas

Regardless of the outcome this fall, Texas will remain a majority conservative Congress. The state has deep ties to the GOP, with Republican presidential candidates take the state in every election since 1980.

Yet, with frustrations high at all levels, change of any kind could be on the horizon.

February data from Texas Political Project listing border security (19%), immigration (12%), COVID-19 (11%), political corruption (9%) and economics (6%) as his top five election questions.

March results of the 2022 edition Texas High School Poll cited border security (14%) as the first hot spot. Inflation, political corruption/leadership and energy prices are all linked at 9%. Cannabis legalization was not mentioned in the list of 25 concerns.

“From the fragile power grid to access to health care, the economy, endemic corruption and gun violence, issues overwhelm Texas’ election cycle,” said Susan Hays, Democratic candidate for Agriculture Department Commissioner.

Hays said the typical voter likely places cannabis somewhere in the middle of their priorities this voting cycle.

“But voters consistently raise cannabis reform as an important issue to them,” she said.

Jax James, NORMAL State policy official says legalizing cannabis is “definitely” inferior to gun and abortion rights, adding that property taxes might also be seen as a higher priority for most Texans.

James said the state’s current surplus might make legalization less of a concern for those who aren’t advocates. In July 2021, the State Comptroller Glenn Hegar predicted that Texas would have a Surplus of $7.85 billion for the 2022-2023 biennium.

“The desire to have income in the legal market may not be as great as it could be,” James said.

How cannabis policy fits into the discussion

Texans have spoken out on legalization and now seem to be waiting for key lawmakers to do the same. On the other side of the aisle, voters have for some time supported a legal expansion of the market.

“Overall, cannabis is really a pretty bipartisan issue here in Texas,” James said.

Texas Politics Projects June 2021 results saw 60% of respondents supporting possession in small or large quantities. Only 13% opposed legalization in any form.

A May 2022 poll of The Dallas Morning News and The University of Texas at Tyler found similar results. 60% of respondents legalization of adult use supported, 83% favoring the medical sector. 42% of identified Republicans supported adult use.

Public support did not influence much Governor Abbott from previous positions. He prefers cannabis to remain a class C misdemeanor.

James blamed Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrickwhich has been linked to the crushing of the reform momentum for several years.

“The governor actually negotiated with activists to do a little more than what happened,” James said.

Others have offered similar opinions. “Texans seem to want a more robust medical program, similar to Oklahoma, but the current lieutenant governor will not allow cannabis legislation to be introduced in the Senate,” said Matt HawkinFounder and Managing Director of Entourage Effect Capital.

Tristan Sekel is executive director of the nonpartisan group Decriminalize Denton, one of the cities that adopted decriminalization in November. He believes that the rise of political and electoral issues at the local level is a response to stalled efforts at the state level.

“People are organizing more and supporting each other, I think, as a necessary reaction,” Seikel said.

Medicine advocates also continued to push for changes to its restrictive market. In 2021, the Texas Compassionate Use Program expanded its coverage to people with cancer and PTSD. Efforts to include chronic pain have been suppressed in the Senate.

Conservatives are gaining ground recently

Whereas Beto O’Rourke and that cannabis reforms could win in November, the state’s conservative grip still seems strong.

“I can’t even begin to speculate how our elections will go this year, especially with recent news of a Republican flipping a historically Democratic district in the Rio Grande Valley,” said Shayda TorabiCEO of Reboot CBD and host of To be honest podcast.

Mid-June, GOP candidate Mayra Flores overturned the typically Democratic seat in a special election.

The state GOP also made waves in June when its new party platform included protests against the 2020 election results, condemned same-sex marriage and called for the repeal of the 1965 Voting Rights Act. The platform also opposes the legalization of cannabis but supports the postponement.

Results not coming for several months, we have to wait and see what will happen. In the meantime, NORML’s James reports being aware of several companies waiting to capitalize on what could be a lucrative market in Texas.

Rather than wait, she urges these companies to get involved. “Activists are here on the ground to do the work, and we need to make sure businesses and people in positions of power support this work.”

Photo by Ruben Reyes at Pexels

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