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San Antonio state senator proposes marijuana legalization as Texas faces budget shortfall

State Senator-elect Roland Gutierrez claims legalization would produce $3.2 billion in state revenue

SAN ANTONIO – Following a hard-fought victory over Pete Flores for the District 19 state senate seat, state Senator-elect Roland Gutierrez pre-filed a bill on Monday that would legalize cannabis for medical and recreational use in Texas if passed.

While campaigning for the state Senate seat, Gutierrez, a Democrat, made marijuana legalization one of his campaign platforms. In a news release issued Monday, Gutierrez said legalization would result in an estimated $3.2 billion in state revenue and 30,000 high-paying jobs, boosting employment in agriculture, manufacture, retail and distributing.

Marijuana is legalized, either for medicinal or recreational, adult use, in at least 38 states, the most recent of which include New Jersey, Arizona, Montana and South Dakota in last week’s election.

Texas has only begun loosening its tight prohibition on the drug in the past five years but still maintains some of the strictest laws in the country.

“There is going to be a budget shortfall to affect all Texans next legislation session, however, I look forward to working with my colleagues to offer a real solution,” Gutierrez said in the news release. “This bill will generate new revenue and create at least 30,000 high paying jobs. Our state’s economic future is uncertain and in order to best serve our state, we have to look at cannabis legalization as a solution and not keep going back to the taxpayers and raise their taxes.”

Texas’ revenue has plummeted due to the coronavirus pandemic, according to Texas Comptroller Glenn Hegar. The state faces a deficit of nearly $4.6 billion as they reconvene in Austin to set the next budget in January. The comptroller estimate shows drops in revenue from sectors like travel, retail and alcohol and beverage due to the coronavirus pandemic. The state sales tax is the largest source of revenue for Texas.

In 2019, Texas lawmakers legalized hemp, which is used to make cannabidiol, or CBD, a nonpsychoactive compound of cannabis. The hemp must contain less than 0.3% of THC, the psychoactive compound in marijuana.

In 2015, Texas lawmakers passed the Texas Compassionate Use Act, which legalized medical cannabis with less than 0.5% THC for people with specific diagnoses, like multiple sclerosis and epilepsy. Veterans unsuccessfully lobbied the legislature to include Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder as one of the diagnoses that qualify for medical marijuana use.

Public sentiment has grown in Texas for marijuana legalization, polls showed. More than 80% of Texas voters support legalizing pot in some capacity, according to a 2018 University of Texas/Texas Tribune poll.

But Republican leaders, including Gov. Greg Abbott and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, have yet to embrace marijuana legalization and have not completely been supportive of expanding medical use.

In a recent visit to one of Texas’ first medical marijuana dispensaries, Texas Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller did not express support for recreational use, but did say the program should be expanded for people who would benefit from the medical use of it.

The bill faces an uphill battle, requiring the approval of the state legislature and Gov. Greg Abbott. The legislative session will convene in January.

Copyright 2020 by KSAT – All rights reserved.

About the Author:
Fares Sabawi

Fares Sabawi has been a journalist in San Antonio for three years. He has covered several topics, but focuses on crime, courts and record requests the most. He also has a recurring appearance on KSAT News at 9’s Trending Now segment.

State Senator-elect Roland Gutierrez said legalization would result in an estimated $3.2 billion in state revenue.

San Antonio state lawmakers looking to expand marijuana use in the state

Will Texas legalize marijuana in 2021?

SAN ANTONIO – Texas lawmakers have begun filing bills for the upcoming legislative session and there are already more than a dozen bills regarding marijuana use and decriminalization.

The new bill proposals come off the heels of five more states legalizing marijuana for full medical use or recreational use.

Currently, 11 states have fully legalized marijuana and 34 states have made it legal for medical use.

According to a University of Texas/Texas Tribune Poll in 2018, more than 53% of the state’s voters would legalize pot.

“The people of Texas are tired of marijuana prohibition,” Heather Fazio the director of Texans for Responsible Marijuana Policy said.

Fazio has been lobbying for years for the expansion of marijuana laws in the state and believes because they are closer than ever to seeing something get done next legislative session.

“We’ve been working with Democrats and Republicans to find common ground on legislation with decriminalizing small amounts of marijuana and allowing patients safe and legal access to medical cannabis by making the Compassionate Use program more inclusive.

The Compassionate Use Act in Texas only allows a small amount of medical marijuana to certain patients.

State Senator José Menéndez has been pushing for the past five years to expand that act.

“There are hundreds of thousands, if not millions of people who could benefit,” Menéndez said. “I want politicians to really not talk about how much they respect their constituents but show them that you respect them and you’re willing to give them a tool if their doctor agrees it could help.”

Along with Menéndez’s bill, Senator-elect Roland Gutierrez is going a step further by filing a bill that would legalize marijuana use for adults.

“We need to put ourselves in a position where we’re creating a product that is grown locally in Texas, by Texas farmers, tested in Texas properly,” Gutierrez said. “We have an opportunity of creating over 30,000 jobs and $3 billion in revenue.”

In this upcoming session, the discussion of the budget will be important as the stated is projected to have a shortfall and Gutierrez believes sales tax from marijuana could make up for it.

“It’s my hope that the Lt. Governor, the Governor, and others that are like-minded would at least look at the facts and look at the data that exists and look what other states have been able to uncover over time and realize for themselves,” Gutierrez said.

KSAT reached out to Governor Greg Abbott’s office and Lt. Governor Dan Patrick’s office for their stance on the expansion of marijuana in the state but have not heard back.

The 86th Legislative session begins on Jan. 8.

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Copyright 2020 by KSAT – All rights reserved.

Local lawmakers have filed bills to expand the medical use of marijuana and recreational use for adults.