New polling data reveals that a growing number of Texans support legalizing marijuana for personal use.
A majority of registered voters in Texas now believe that marijuana should be legalized in the state, according to the findings of a recent poll by the University of Texas and the Texas Tribune.
While support was found to be higher among Democrats and young adults, overall 53 percent of Texans said they would support legalizing either small amounts or any amount of marijuana, up more than 10 points from the same poll in 2015.
Another 31 percent said they believe that marijuana should be legal when used for medical purposes. Just 16 percent responded that marijuana should remain completely illegal.
“Texas is going to be slow, but it’s going that way,” said Daron Shaw, co-director of the poll and a government professor at the University of Texas at Austin. “In some ways the handwriting is on the wall, and it’s pretty clear. Public opposition is diminishing, and if the economic or tax arguments change, it’s hard to see what would keep pot from getting on the agenda.”
Both political affiliation and age were found to have a notable influence on attitudes regarding legalization. Only 39 percent of Republicans said they would legalize marijuana for personal use, while two-thirds of Democrats said they would do so.
A majority of voters across all age groups except for older Texans voiced support for recreational marijuana legalization. The poll found that 59 percent of registered voters under 30 would approve marijuana legalization, while 56 percent of Texans between 36 and 65 years of age said they would end the state’s current prohibitions. Of adults over 65 years, only 40 percent said they support marijuana legalization.
An even larger majority of Texans – 69 percent — said they would support reducing penalties for marijuana possession. The value reveals an increase in tolerant attitudes regarding marijuana, even among Texas conservatives. Just last month, the Republican Party of Texas added marijuana decriminalization and the legalization of medical marijuana to their official platform.
Josh Blank, manager of polling and research at UT-Austin’s Texas Politics Project, believes this indicates that age alone isn’t completely responsible for the shift in public opinion among historically-conservative Texan voters.
“We’ve seen this movement take place in a much shorter period of time than the age differences would produce,” he said.
The University of Texas/Texas Tribune poll surveyed 1,000 registered voters online from June 8 to June 17.
Earlier this year, a Quinnipiac University Poll found even higher levels of support for marijuana legalization among Texas voters. In the survey of 1,029 registered voters, 61 percent said they were in favor of legalizing the possession of small amounts of marijuana for personal use.
Marijuana Laws in Texas
Despite growing support, marijuana remains illegal in Texas, even for medical purposes. Those found in possession of up to 4 ounces of marijuana are charged with a misdemeanor and subject to fines of up to $4,000 and a year in jail.
The state does have in place a limited low-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) medical cannabis law accessible to those diagnosed with an intractable epilepsy disorder. With a written recommendation from a physician, epilepsy patients can legally purchase and use a cannabis oil containing up to 0.5 percent THC.
Texans interested in legalizing marijuana must rely on their state lawmakers, as the state does not have a mechanism for independent ballot measures. The Texas Legislature, a bicameral body composed of a 31-member Senate and a 150-member House of Representatives, does not convene again until January 2019.
If lawmakers approved a marijuana legalization bill, it would have to be signed into law by Gov. Greg Abbott, who has said in the past he would not approve any such legislation.
More on Marijuana
Polling data indicates that support for legalizing marijuana is growing nationwide, and today nearly 7 of 10 Americans favor ending prohibition. Learn more about cannabis laws in Texas and throughout the rest of the U.S. by visiting our education page. Keep up with the cannabis industry through our news page.