When the Texas Legislature begins its regular biennial session next year, marijuana legalization, both medical and recreational, is going to be a topic. The state’s budget is going to face a massive deficit, hammered by both the pandemic and the collapse of the price of oil.
Texas has far more arrests for marijuana possession (over 63,000 in 2016) than any other state. New Jersey has been a distant second with around 30,000 arrests, but it is about to legalize it.
How long can the people of Texas tolerate this outrage?
In all probability, we may end up with some form of medical system, which has overwhelming public support. Also, look for some form of “decriminalization” which might be popular in urban areas, so long as it doesn’t “inconvenience law enforcement” — meaning approximately 250 sheriffs.
Ironically, politicians who normally oppose new taxes can think that they can justify their support for legalization by calling for heavily taxing it. Unfortunately, high taxes not only stifle economic activity and innovation, but — in this case high taxes can also protect the existing black market, meaning huge volumes of marijuana from Mexico.
However, Shawn Hauser, the Austin partner in the Denver based law firm Vicente Sederberg, that specializes in cannabis laws, estimates that “Texas could collect more than half a billion dollars per year in new tax revenue and create upwards of 40,000 new jobs if it legalizes and regulates cannabis for adult use. The state could also save millions of taxpayer dollars per year in criminal justice costs.”
The report — which can be viewed and downloaded at http://bit.ly/texas-benefits — includes the following key findings:
“There are more than 1.5 million adults 21 years of age and older in Texas who consume cannabis on a monthly basis. If the state-regulated cannabis for adult use, it would see an estimated $2.7 billion per year in cannabis sales.
If Texas taxed adult cannabis sales at the same rate as Colorado, it would generate more than $1.1 billion dollars per biennium in new state revenue. It could also raise an additional $10 million per year through a modest business license fee, which would help offset the costs of administering the regulatory program.
A regulated adult-use cannabis market in Texas would result in hundreds of new businesses, creating an estimated 20,000-40,000 direct jobs in the cannabis industry, as well as tens of thousands of indirect and induced jobs.
Ending misdemeanor arrests and prosecutions for low-level cannabis possession offenses in Texas would save the state an estimated $311 million per year…
The stakes are particularly high in Texas due to its size and population, according to Dwight Clark, a senior policy analyst at Vicente Sederberg who previously worked in the Texas Legislature.
“There are well over a million adults in the state who regularly consume cannabis, so enforcement costs are substantial, to say the least,” Clark said. “If cannabis were regulated, the revenue from license fees and taxes would easily cover the costs of administering the system and enforcing regulations. Criminal justice resources could then be redirected toward other, more pressing matters. Plus there would be significant revenue left over that could be used to fund other programs and services.”
But there are other factors at work here. Notably, Texas’ 1,254 mile border with Mexico.
See MEXICO MAY MOVE TO COMPLETE LEGALIZATION OF MARIJUANA AND HEMP WITHOUT THC LIMITS BY THE END OF THE YEAR
Right now, the US and Mexico have several other things in common. Both countries are in the grip of the COVID-19 pandemic. And even though Texas has a world class medical system, it is threatening to collapse as our hospitals fill up. Meanwhile, in Mexico their medical system is in much worse shape, and no one really knows how many people are infected or even how many have died.
Sadly, President Lopez Obrador has proven utterly incompetent, and the pandemic can remain out of control with devastating consequences for both the public health, their economy and Mexican law enforcement. These failures are a painful example of a co-morbidity made much worse by corruption and incompetence.
See Comorbidity & Richard’s Tips to Latin American Countries on the Cusp of Legalization of Cannabis and Medical Marijuana
Consequently, if Texas does not legalize marijuana and Mexico does, the quality of Mexican contraband marijuana can become more competitive with US grown weed, and that might further strengthen the black market, and corruption on both sides of the border. It could also keep marijuana in the same distribution channels as hard drugs, which has always been the real “Gateway”.
See How Legalizing Marijuana Is Securing the Border: The Border Wall, Drug Smuggling, and Lessons for Immigration Policy
The fact is that the United States, and especially Texas, has a serious economic and political interest in the public health and political stability of Mexico. Our common border is one of the longest in the world, and it can be seen as an opportunity, not a problem, but that might require serious changes on both sides of the border.
Our Drug War has cost Mexico truly countless lives.
See Mexican Drug War and Mexico’s war on drugs: More than 60,000 people ‘disappeared’
We have long assumed that America is too rich and too powerful to worry about the rest of the world, even on our border, but we can no longer afford that fantasy. Not even in Texas. Especially not in Texas.
See; Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador Announced Focus on Allowing Only Medical Cannabis
- Richard Cowan is a former NORML National Director and author of Know These Things Before Giving CBD To Your Dog.