American Civil Liberties Union

Texas Republican Gubernatorial Frontrunner Expresses Support For Cannabis Law Reforms During Campaign Trail

Texas Republican Gubernatorial Frontrunner Expresses Support For Cannabis Law Reforms During Campaign Trail

Texas gubernatorial candidate Greg Abbott recently aired his thoughts on cannabis reforms while on a campaign trail in Edinburg. The former governor stated that low-level cannabis possession is not a violation worthy of filling state prisons. As the race for governor commences in Texas, the discussion on cannabis laws is slowly finding its way back to the political limelight.

During a campaign stop in Edinburg, Abbott expressed his support for marijuana reforms saying that prisons should not be overwhelmed by petty cannabis offenders. Given how overpopulated county jails can be in Texas, this initiative would be a welcomed win-win for people in the state. Moreover, planting petty cannabis offenders in prison can be quite costly; hence, stopping the conviction of these types of culprits will effectively preserve the state’s financial resources.

Still, Abbott is not the only politician with strong sentiments about cannabis reforms. His comments come against the backdrop of his rival’s remarks on the issue. The Democratic Party’s frontrunner, Beto O’Rourke, has also been an outspoken supporter of cannabis legalization in Texas. The former U.S. Congressman voiced that the legalization of cannabis was a matter that all people of Texas could agree on in a video announcement declaring his bid for governor.

Beto also mentioned that adult-use marijuana legalization would be part of his campaign platform in the forthcoming elections. Nevertheless, this does not come as a surprise since Beto has been pro-cannabis reforms for a long time. Before challenging Greg Abbott for the Texas gubernatorial seat, O’Rourke championed pot legalization in his bid for Senator in 2018. Although he lost to Republican Senator Ted Cruz, he was always straightforward about his perspective on the decriminalization of cannabis. 

Despite his defeat in 2018, Beto sought to climb the political ladder when he continued to champion his call for cannabis reforms during his presidential bid in 2020. According to the Texas Tribune, he released a manifesto that highlighted his plan for federal weed legalization if he were to win. His strategy included pardoning people sentenced to prison due to cannabis possession and grants for those who have already served time.

Furthermore, Beto’s strategy also included a federal tax on cannabis, with the proceeds going to a subsidy that would help victims incarcerated for non-belligerent marijuana-related crimes. The American Civil Liberties Union discovered in a study that minorities are 2.6 times more likely to be arrested for cannabis possession. For this reason, decriminalizing weed is arguably the best course of action when looking to reduce racial-based cannabis arrests.

Although cannabis legalization advocates in Texas had something to smile about after lawmakers revised the legislation in 2021, they still face stiff opposition from prohibitionists. For instance, McLennan County Republican Party chairman Bradford Holland has expressed his dismissal of cannabis legalization. Holland voiced that despite recognizing the medical benefits of marijuana and that minor possession cases are not worth prosecuting, O’Rourke’s manifesto takes it too far. Furthermore, reform critics are also concerned about the health and behavioral effects of legalizing recreational marijuana in Texas.

However, political leaders like Greg Abbott and Beto O’Rourke acknowledge the damage that prohibition has done to communities and fight tooth and nail for reforms. Moreover, they recognize the harm law enforcement inflicts on minorities after they inappropriately incarcerate them or deprive them of opportunities due to prohibition. More so for the possession of a substance that is legal in many other parts of the nation. 

What’s more, reform activists like Abbott recognize the innumerable opportunities that a legal cannabis market can provide for Texans. Given how states that have legalized the adult use of marijuana are reaping big rewards from their move, it’s only going to be a matter of time before states like Texas follow suit. Plus, with the majority of Texans in favor of the decriminalization of cannabis, we can conclude that bong toking Texans will soon be able to partake in legal cannabis in peace.

Illinois and California have seen the benefits of legalizing recreational cannabis. The latter recently collected over 800 million dollars in adult-use marijuana tax revenue, a 55 percent increase from the previous fiscal year. Similarly, while both Abbott and O’Rourke support marijuana reforms, the former is more aggressive in calling for legalizing recreational cannabis.
According to a Quinnipiac University poll, Abbott’s strategy is seemingly paying off as he is currently the favorite candidate for the gubernatorial seat. The incumbent has a 15-point lead against his closest rival, with 52 percent of the poll’s respondents supporting Abbott and only 37 percent backing O’Rourke for the top government job in Texas.

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