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Liberalizing marijuana laws in Texas gets low approval rating

A scene from earlier this year in Fort Worth as thousands marched through downtown in support of changing marijuana laws in Texas.
A scene from earlier this year in Fort Worth as thousands marched through downtown in support of changing marijuana laws in Texas.

What does it mean to liberalize the marijuana laws in Texas?

When asked if people would be interested in doing such a thing, this question could be interpreted in many ways, and could invoke strong feelings in a person if they have an interest in politics.

Now that the 2015 legislative session is over, representatives from all over Texas have mailed out official newsletters from the capitol where they highlight what they believe was important about the session.

Included in Rep. Charles “Doc” Anderson’s mail-out were the results of a survey which people participated in from his previous newsletter. One of those issues pertained to marijuana.

“With the recent, questionable experimentation of Marijuana legalization in Colorado and Washington, this topic may be discussed in the 84th session. In regards to the many detrimental effects of this drug’s usage, are you in support of liberalizing the marijuana laws in Texas?”

Would a question phrased in such a way be likely to produce impartial results, or would it automatically skew the answer in a preferred direction? Standard polling companies tend to ask neutral questions without providing an opinion posed as a question.

A more reasonable question might be, “With the recent change in laws which legalize marijuana for recreational consumption in states such as Colorado, Washington, Alaska, and Oregon, would you be in support of legalizing marijuana in Texas?”

The results of Rep. Anderson’s survey showed that 74 percent of respondents answered no to his question. The Republican representative serves a district which encompasses much of Waco and the surrounding areas, a strong Republican area.

While no official polling data exists for the area, recent polling in Texas places support for legalizing marijuana at 58 percent. Another Texas Tribune survey shows that 74 percent of Texans are in support of reducing the penalty for possession of small amounts of marijuana to a ticket only fine with no jail time.

Nationally, Republicans favor changing marijuana laws at a much lower rate than everyone else, 39 percent according to Pew. This could account for a stronger opposition to changing marijuana laws in the area.

Rep. Anderson did not get a chance to vote on any of the many marijuana bills this session. Most died in committee without a vote, while others weren’t scheduled to be heard, ultimately dying in the Calendar Committee. Past attempts to speak with Rep. Anderson about the need for changing marijuana laws have been met with opposition.

He did however get the opportunity to vote on the subject of hemp, two bills to be exact. Rep. Anderson is the co-chair of the Agriculture and Livestock Committee.

Texas Marijuana Policy Advocacy Workshops — January 2018
Texas Marijuana Policy Advocacy Workshops — January 2018

The first bill allows institutions of higher education to grow hemp for research purposes. It passed unanimously out of committee, but was not voted on by the Texas House of Representatives.

A second bill would have legalized hemp for Texas farmers to grow just as they would any other crop. Rep. Anderson, along with chair of the committee Rep. Tracy King, a Democrat from Batesville, refused to allow the bill to be voted on, despite strong support.

While not a marijuana bill, Rep. Anderson flexed his muscle to block a cannabis related bill, and it’s not surprising given the way his question about marijuana legalization was worded. Both hemp and marijuana come from the same plant species.

Throughout the entire country, 38 percent of people have said they consumed marijuana at some point in their lives according to Gallup.

Recent data shows that Texas is tied for third with Florida in states with the most marijuana consumers at about 1.3 million.

Chances are, this survey is inaccurate, and undoubtedly engineered to be that way. Rep. Anderson and many other politicians across the state however will hold up this survey and others like it, and say that their constituents oppose changing marijuana laws.

It is problem when a solid majority supports an issue such as marijuana reform, while many politicians continue to not only be in opposition, but manufacture data to support that opposition.

The primaries occur on March 1 in 2016. The deadline to register to vote in the primaries is 30 days before the election takes place. Find out who represents you here.

In 2014, only 7.18 percent of eligible adults voted in the Texas Republican primary, while 2.96 percent participated in the Democratic Party primary. Just over 1.9 million people selected the candidates which would be available to represent 25 million Texans on the ballot in November.

In Rep. Anderson’s case, he was nominated by just 8,252 voters and ran unopposed for his nomination. The average district holds about 150,000 people.

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Stephen Carter

Stephen Carter is a journalist and information technology specialist living in Waco, Texas. He has been working with the cannabis movement since 2009. He founded Texas Cannabis Report in 2013 to bring Texans accurate cannabis related news.

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2 Comments

  1. .......
    July 24, 2015 at 7:45 am

    Whoever made that question should be charged with slander, but that would be a right thing to do, so I’m not holding my breath in waiting.

  2. rickyb
    July 24, 2015 at 9:37 pm

    If citizens would grow their own cannabis, there would be no need for an illegal market. Future voters can elect to choose the option when they become eligible. Many people make their own beer, wine etc. Taxes would be paid when they buy the growing medium, dirt, fertilizer etc. Young people are naturally defiant, and ready to stand up to the corruption that plagues the state house.