You may not realize it, but 2013 was a huge year for the marijuana legalization movement in Texas.
Now that we’re officially in the 2014 election cycle, we’ll be scouring the state for pro-cannabis candidates and working to convince current elected officials of the greatly important need to change our marijuana laws.
Let’s look back on the groundwork laid in 2013 to see just how far we’ve come and prepared for this year.
We had two major polls come out, the first showing 58% of Texans supporting legalization. The other showed 79% of Texans opposing jail time for simple marijuana possession. This is ample political ammunition to be used this year since it can now be considered popular to be a pro-cannabis politician.
There were over 100 cannabis related events in Texas in 2013 including meetings, activist activities, parties, and more including the High Times Doobie Awards in Austin. There was also the DFW NORML Toker Poker Tournament and Halloween Party in Fort Worth.
The first cannabis conference of its kind was put on by DFW NORML. A huge success, the Texas Regional NORML Conference was a three day event held in downtown Fort Worth featuring a slew of speakers on a variety of topics. Many major proponents of legalization, including former Libertarian vice presidential candidate Judge Jim Gray were in attendance, and the event drew several hundred people. Gray stated that “ending prohibition is the most patriotic thing I can do.”
Spawning from the conference was the first dedicated cannabis news outlet in Texas. Originally headed to cover the conference for the CannaTruths podcast, it evolved into the first event coverage for Texas Cannabis Report, which was launched just days afterwards.
With the help of Texas NORML and its newly elected executive director Cheyanne Weldon, there was an effort to expand the number of NORML chapters across Texas. During 2013 new chapters opened up in El Paso and Lubbock. During this time, the new Lubbock chapter put on a conference and concert of their own, which even the Lubbock Chief of Police was receptive to. The El Paso inaugural event drew support from a Texas state senator. This pushed the number of Texas cannabis organizations to at least 15.
In November DFW NORML and the NORML Women’s Alliance successfully held a lobbyist training event to help prepare people for the 2015 legislative year.
Two cannabis related bills were introduced to the Texas legislature, one of which was passed out of committee but was not scheduled for a vote. Activists from all over Texas descended on the capitol to give testimony and reserved two rooms for strategy meetings. They also held a lobby day.
Several rallies were held at the Texas capitol, including the annual Texas Marijuana March where hundreds of people turned out. At the same time, a march was held in Fort Worth which drew around 500 people.
Team Hope through Cannabis, the athletic group of Texas NORML, competed in several runs and walks, and attended several sporting events in an effort to raise awareness and break stereotypes.
Vincent Lopez, who publishes The Austin420, started Patient Alliance for Cannabis Therapeutics which organizes patients in Texas to talk about the medicinal usage of cannabis and inform others about the need for medical marijuana.
Both the South Texas College of Law and Rice University’s Baker Institute collaborated to create a marijuana policy course.
When a hemp legalization amendment came up in congress, 10 representatives from Texas went on record in support of legalizing hemp.
NORML of Waco threw a major marijuana party and one of the most conservative areas in Texas was very warm to it.
The Dallas Veteran’s Affairs Hospital welcomed DFW NORML with open arms when they put on a Smoke Out Prohibition BBQ at the hospital this summer.
Texas NORML executive director Cheyanne Weldon spoke at the Border Legislative Conference where the mood was in favor of marijuana legalization.
Media outlets in Texas changed their tone and began quoting cannabis leaders in the state favorably and provided positive coverage of the movement. The Waco Tribune-Herald featured a full section dedicated to medical marijuana. Even Dallas/Fort Worth radio talk show host Russ Martin got in on the action and talked positively about marijuana.
Kinky Friedman announced his candidacy for Texas Agriculture Commissioner and came out with marijuana and hemp legalization as major priorities in his campaign.
Texas representative Steve Stockman, a die-hard conservative, signed on in support of a federal bill which would respect state marijuana laws.
Houston NORML marked nearly a quarter of a century of activist efforts.
Waco officials are considering getting rid of the ineffective DARE program.
Last but not least, the foundation of an alliance was laid between people in the cannabis movement and the Texas Libertarian Party, who has routinely showed up to marijuana events and proudly supports legalization.
Cannabis organizations everywhere in Texas are growing by leaps and bounds, and awareness is steadily spreading. This is just a taste of what’s going on here in the Lone Star State.
Keep all of this in mind when you wonder to yourself how close marijuana legalization is in Texas. With a little extra push from everyone, dedication and action will get it to happen in either the 2015 or 2017 Texas legislative sessions. So go out and join up with your local group, talk to your representatives, and vote in pro-cannabis candidates.
You better believe it’s a happy new year!
By: Stephen Carter
Contact Stephen via email at TXCann@gmail.com