Texans may have chance of voting on marijuana in 2018
Despite Texas not having a voter initiative law, Texans may still be able to vote on both medical and recreational cannabis legalization in 2018 if the state legislature permits it.
Every odd year the state legislature meets to take care of its business, pass laws, and make changes to the state’s constitution. Changes to the constitution are then put up to a vote by the general voting population in November. This is done with Joint Resolutions, and two of them have been pre-filed for the 2017 legislative session pertaining to marijuana.
Senator José Rodríguez, a Democrat out of El Paso, has filed both resolutions. SJR 17 would allow voters to decide whether marijuana should be legalized in Texas while SJR 18 would put the issue of physician recommended medical cannabis up to a vote.
Such resolutions are typically voted on the same year they are passed by the state legislature, however these have been designated for a vote in 2018.
Texas NORML has put together a list of all currently submitted marijuana legislation, and described the joint resolution process.
Joint resolutions are used to propose amendments to the Texas Constitution and requires a vote of two-thirds of the total membership of each chamber for adoption. A joint resolution takes the same course through both chambers as a bill and is like a bill in all respects, except that, in the house, if it receives the required number of votes at any reading after the first reading, the resolution is passed. Three readings are required to pass a joint resolution in the senate. Joint resolutions passed by the legislature are not submitted to the governor for signing but are filed directly with the Office of the Secretary of State (SOS). The SOS conducts a drawing to determine the order in which the proposed constitutional amendments will appear on the ballot. It is then put on the ballot for the citizens of Texas to vote on in the General Election.
Other bills include HB 81 and SB 170 making less than ounce of marijuana a $250 fine, HB 82 changes possession of less than an ounce from a Class B to a Class C misdemeanor, and HB 58 would create a marijuana possession court for first time offenders.
An estimated 70,000 Texans are arrested each year for marijuana possession, most of it for small amounts.
According to a June 2015 poll conducted by the University of Texas and Texas Tribune, 68% of Texans support efforts to reduce penalties for low-level marijuana possession. A more recent poll conducted by Texas Lyceum found that less than 20% of Texas voters still support prohibition. Most Texans favor marijuana policy reform.
*Editor’s Correction: We incorrectly identified 2017 as the year these resolutions could be voted on.