Majority of Texans support marijuana legalization, uphill battle still looms
A record low 17 percent of Texans oppose legalizing marijuana for any purpose.
Data recently released through a University of Texas/Texas Tribune Poll indicates that a super majority of Texans are ready to change the state’s marijuana laws. The only information the poll failed to gather was just how enthusiastic those people are for changing the law, something which will dictate whether or not elected officials take action.
The previous polling data in 2015 showed 24 percent of Texans opposing any form of marijuana legalization.
Of particular interest is the amount of people wanting to outright legalize the plant, with 53 percent responding in the affirmative. That number broken down shows that 32 percent support legalization for small amounts, while 21 percent support the legalization of any amount. These percentages are up six and five percent respectively.
Given the nature of the poll, it is unable to truly gauge the support for medical marijuana, with 30 percent supporting legalizing the plant for medical use only. This is down from 34 percent in 2015, meaning that support has shifted from just medical cannabis to full legalization.
While most groups show a majority support for legalization, Republicans and women, as well as those age 65 and older have yet to reach a majority of support in their respective demographics.
Among Democrats, 62 percent would legalize cannabis in some amount for non-medical use, while only 41 percent of Republicans agreed. Sixty percent of men would support legalization of non-medical marijuana, compared with 48 percent of women. Among those age 18-44, 55 percent would approve of non-medical marijuana, and 51 percent of 45 to 64-year-olds agreed. Only 38 percent of Texans 65 and older agreed.
Republicans tend to dominate most elections, especially the primaries, which could likely lead to openly anti-marijuana law reform candidates being nominated and elected. Other elected Republicans may fear supporting reforms due to the possible backlash they could face in a primary.
“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,” he said. “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 as a kind of way station.”
Currently there have been 18 cannabis-related bills filed with the state legislature for the 2017 legislative session, including legislation to lower penalties, establish a whole plant medical marijuana program, and fully legalize the plant.