AUSTIN (KXAN) — During his reelection campaign, Texas Governor Greg Abbott has struck a moderate tone when it comes to marijuana.
When asked about cannabis reform during a campaign event last week, Abbott once again laid out the argument that prisons and jails are places “for dangerous criminals who may harm others.”
“Small possession of marijuana is not the type of violation that we want to stockpile jails with,” the governor said.
His remarks come as opinions on the matter begin to change across the state. A University of Texas at Austin and Texas Tribune poll last June showed 60% of Texas voters say they support the recreational use of marijuana.
Abbott has signaled he is open to the idea of decriminalization. It’s been a different story for Lt. Governor Dan Patrick.
“The Lt. Governor has made it pretty explicitly clear that he is not on board for lessening the state’s drug laws around marijuana,” said Joshua Blank with UT Austin’s Texas Politics Project. “But I think like any other public figure, if pressure continues to mount, especially within his own party, there’s no reason he can’t change his mind.”
KXAN spoke with Rep. Joe Moody (D) who represents El Paso in Austin. Moody has authored legislation tackling cannabis reform, though his bills have not made it out of Patrick’s senate.
Still, Moody remains hopeful.
“There’s this entrenched mentality, it used to be this way on both sides of the aisle, that maybe we just want to be tough on crime,” Moody said. “Both parties have started to depart from that philosophy, some quicker than others, but I think we’re getting to a point where we can have a consensus on that.”
Samantha Benavides with the group Mano Amigo is currently gathering signatures to try and get marijuana decriminalized at the local level in San Marcos. She told KXAN the state’s current cannabis laws are leaving money on the table.
“We have people in Colorado, for example, and other states where (marijuana is) legal building these multimillion-dollar businesses,” she said.
Blank said money could be what ultimately tips the scale at the Texas capitol, even if Republicans maintain power in the years to come.
“I think the state is, you know, a large one that faces numerous fiscal challenges, which are Texas size in most cases,” he said. “Other states are generating revenue through the legalization and tax and marijuana. There’s no reason to think that Texas isn’t also going to consider some scheme like that.”