A Texas Tribune story (“Expecting Pot Penalties to Decrease? Slow Your Roll“) explored whether of Texas is ready to change its policy on marijuana. Shortly after that, the Texas Tribune released poll results on Texans’ attitudes about marijuana.
Only 23% of respondents support the current policy of marijuana being illegal in all cases. Almost half of respondents (49%) support legalize something like possession for personal use and another 28% support medical marijuana.
So, about 3/4 of Texans support some kind of change to the state’s drug policy. The question is whether or not change will come to Texas.
Gubernatorial candidate Wendy Davis announced that she supports medical marijuana. That does indicate some support for changing the law, but it’s a long way from legal marijuana. Meanwhile, Greg Abbott does not support any changes to the drug laws.
Remember this if you’re thinking about Texas suddenly joining other states in decriminalizing or legalizing marijuana: Texas law allowed for life in prison for simple possession of marijuana until the 1970s. The state’s libertarian leanings often lose out when they run into Texans’ social conservatism.
Change is going to be slow because the people most opposed to reforming marijuana laws are at the heart of the base of the Republican party. It’s a great example of how the rules of the game matter. A majority of Texans might favor changing the state’s marijuana laws. However, the majority of the primary voters choosing the nominees of the majority party in Texas probably do not. Representative democracy is often about who shows up and most Texans do not show up for party primaries.