A $4.6 million chunk has been gnawed from the Texas state budget due to the coronavirus-related economic crisis. How will lawmakers choose to recover from this devastating blow to the state’s revenue? One idea is cannabis legalization, which is being encouraged by a number of Democratic lawmakers.
Not only is the appeal of financial recovery prompting Democrats to push for cannabis legalization in Texas but also, the fact that five U.S. states just passed medical and/or recreational cannabis laws on November 3rd’s Election Day.
Ahead of the 2021 legislative session, State Sen. Roland Gutierrez of San Antonio and state Rep. Joe Moody of El Paso have submitted fresh bills to legalize, regulate and tax personal cannabis consumption. Those bills are Senate Bill 140 and House Bill 447.
If State Rep. Terry Canales of Edinburg gets his way, the question of cannabis legalization will be put in front of Texas voters at the forthcoming session, which will open in January of next year.
“As we see a number of states engaging around the country in a retail market, this is no longer an experiment,” said Moody, adding that the state is undoubtedly “heading into some rough economic waters” and therefore needs to “explore every possible revenue stream.”
Many lawmakers would agree with Moody that cannabis legalization in Texas is a good idea. Based on analysis from neighboring states, due to Texas’ large population and strong support for legal weed statewide, enacting legalization could harvest millions of dollars in tax revenue. Moreover, a legal industry could help to combat unemployment by creating tens of thousands of jobs.
Cannabis legalization in Texas could create as many as 30,000 jobs
“Hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue, if not billions” could be one of the many benefits associated with a legal cannabis market in Texas. This is according to Guiterrez, who estimates that legalization could create almost 30,000 job opportunities. Furthermore, if the industry is taxed in a similar way to Colorado’s legal cannabis market, revenue pulled in over a two-year period could exceed $1.1 billion.
Senate Bill 140 and House Bill 447 would equally legalize the possession of up to 2.5 ounces of cannabis by individuals over the age of 21. A limit of 15 grams would be imposed on cannabis concentrates in Texas, where state residents would also be able to possess a maximum of 12 cannabis plants in their households.
The sale and manufacturing of legal cannabis in Texas would be regulated by the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation. Sales taxes of 10 percent would also be imposed on all cannabis products; cannabis tax revenue stands to benefit employee salaries, teacher pensions, counties and cities.
Conversely, border security, law enforcement and school districts would reap most of the revenue if Gutierrez’s bill – the “REAL Cannabis Legislation Act” – is enacted. He claims that the bill has received plenty of support ahead of the 2021 legislative session.
More U.S. states are enacting cannabis legalization
Recreational cannabis markets are sprouting in numerous U.S. states. A total of 15 states have now legalized cannabis for adult-use purposes; bulked up by the four new states – Arizona, Montana, New Jersey and South Dakota – that passed voter-approved initiatives on November 3.
Since positive repercussions have emerged following a hemp legalization bill that passed in 2019 – the bill legalized hemp and dismissed numerous small cannabis cases, thus contributing to reduced prosecutions and arrests in Texas – it’s clear that reform efforts are having a positive outcome.
Nonetheless, the Texas Capitol heavily opposes cannabis legalization. Despite the fact that various legalization proposals were filed in Texas over the last few years, lawmakers have turned a blind eye to the possibility of a legal weed market transpiring.
Gutierrez and Moody have acknowledged that strong opposition lingers in the Senate and, even though a bill to reduce cannabis penalties passed in 2019 by the House, many Republicans – of whom constitute the vast proportion of House members – have continuously repelled against legalization.
Notwithstanding the disapproval of cannabis legalization in Texas, lawmakers say action is essential to ensure that the economy’s fragile state can recover; and compete with neighboring states that have already enacted legalization.