During a debate this week between Texas gubernatorial candidates Republican Governor Greg Abbott and Democratic Sheriff Lupe Valdez, the subject of marijuana came up. The question was asked, “What is your stance on marijuana legalization in Texas?”
While both candidates ducked the question by not saying whether or not they would support legalizing cannabis, both appeared to be supportive of the idea of medical marijuana, and Abbott added that he would like to move the penalty for minor marijuana possession from a Class B misdemeanor to a Class C misdemeanor.
Currently possession of two ounces or less in Texas can result in a fine up to $2,000 and 180 days in jail, along with the suspension of driver’s license. Moving this offense to a Class C misdemeanor would cap the fine at $500 with no jail time. It wasn’t immediately clear whether or not this would have an effect on the suspension of driver’s license.
During the debate, Abbott stated “Parents with children who have epilepsy approached me a couple session ago about the possibility of what’s called CBD oil for their children. I was moved by what they had to say. I agree with them. I am the governor who signed into law the legalization of CBD oil. More recently I’ve had discussions with veterans as well as parents of autistic children and others who make a very strong compelling case about legalization of medical marijuana.” He added, “I have seen however that other states that authorize that, abuses take place that raise concerns. So I’m still not convinced yet.”
CBD oil is an extracted compound from the cannabis plant which does not make a person feel high, but does possess numerous properties, including the reduction of seizure symptoms.
He goes on to state, “However one thing I don’t want to see is jails stockpiled with people who have possession of small amount of marijuana. What I would be open to talking to the legislature about would be reducing the penalty for possession of two ounces or less from a Class B misdemeanor to a Class C misdemeanor.
Valdez also expressed support for reducing the penalty for marijuana possession, saying “I believe in decriminalizing marijuana.”
Valdez did state that she believes the people of Texas should decide about marijuana legalization. “As far as recreation marijuana, I think it’s up to the people. The people need to decide whether that’s going to be in Texas or not. I think every other state has let the people decide. We should do the same thing. Let the people decide whether we should accept other than medical marijuana.”
Unlike other states, Texas does not have a ballot initiative process, making the people of Texas unable to directly decide whether or not to legalize marijuana. That power rests solely with the legislature and governor.
Recreational marijuana is legal in nine states, and all but one have legalized the plant through ballot initiative, an action where residents collect signatures and then put the measure up for vote state-wide. Vermont is the only state where a legislature has voted for legalization.
Abbott concluded his answer to the question by saying, “Again if we want to make sure this is done, it’s going to have controls on it so abuses don’t take place. We need to observe what is going on in other states. I do agree that we need to take all steps possible to reduce opioid abuse.”
In states where medical cannabis has been legalized, opioid consumption has decreased according to two studies published earlier this year.