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Support for Legalizing Marijuana Building in Texas, Poll Shows

A new poll from the University of Texas shows that fewer than one in five Texans are opposed to any sort of legalization of marijuana.

More than 80 percent of Texans support the legalization of marijuana in some form, according to a new poll from the University of Texas and Texas Tribune. The percentage of those in favor has increased since the same poll in 2015, when 76 percent voiced support.

“We’ve seen this movie before on a couple of social issues,” said Daron Shaw, professor of government at the University of Texas at Austin and co-director of the poll. “There’s a bit of normalization. I don’t think this is a states-as-laboratories issue. Voters don’t care about that kind of stuff.”

Overall, 83 percent support legalizing marijuana in some way. Support for legalizing both medical and recreational marijuana among Texans is 53 percent, according to the poll, which surveyed 1,200 registered voters between February 3 and February 10.

Sixty-two percent of registered Democrats were found to favor legalizing recreational marijuana, compared to 41 percent of Republicans. Among male voters, 60 percent would support legalization of adult use marijuana, while just 48 percent of women agreed.

Support for legalization was found to be higher in younger voters. Only 38 percent of Texans aged 65 and older voiced support for recreational marijuana legalization, while 51 percent of voters aged 45 to 65 years and 55 percent of voters aged 18 to 44 years approve of non-medical marijuana.

“The number of people who want to keep marijuana completely illegal decreased by seven points,” said poll co-director Jim Henson, who runs the Texas Politics Project at UT-Austin. “The commensurate shift is in Republicans saying small amounts should be legal, and those who said any amount should be legal increased by six points.

“The other thing that may be going on here is the possible disappearance of the medium ground,” Henson added. “It reminds me of what happened with gay marriage, where people often chose the civil union option. A similar thing is happening with medical marijuana and as a kind of stay.”

Recreational and Medical Marijuana

Currently Texas has some of the harshest marijuana laws in the U.S. Possession of more than 4 ounces is a felony, punishable by 180 days to 99 years in prison and fines of $10,000 to $10,000. The chances of Texas soon legalizing recreational marijuana are slim, but Sen. Jose Rodriguez and Rep. Joe Moody have each introduced bills to remove criminal penalties for possession of up to 1 ounce.

Texas did pass a low-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) law that allows cannabis oil access to patients diagnosed with intractable epilepsy, and the state is among the four that we’ve projected has a strong chance of passing comprehensive medical marijuana legislation in the 2017 session. Texas For Responsible Marijuana Policy, a campaign pushing for medical marijuana legislation, recently gathered at the Texas State Capitol to gain support for marijuana as a safe treatment option for veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Twenty-eight U.S. states have so far passed comprehensive medical marijuana legislation, and eight have legalized marijuana for recreational purposes. You can learn more about current cannabis laws throughout the U.S. by visiting our education page.