Attitudes Toward Marijuana Legalization Are Shifting in Texas

More Texans than ever think using a substance that was once universally demonized shouldn’t be punished as a crime.

By Emma WhalenFebruary 21, 2017 8:09 am

According to the latest University of Texas/Texas Tribune poll, fewer than 1 in 5 Texans remain against legalization of marijuana in any form. Today 83 percent of Texans support some form of legal use, while more than half, or 53 percent, would support not just use for medicinal purposes, but possession for personal, recreational use. Two years ago, 24 percent of all Texans supported an all-out cannabis prohibition. Today, only 17 percent ‘just say no’ to pot under all circumstances.

Dr. Bill Martin, director of the drug policy program at Rice University’s Baker Institute says that the change in public opinion comes from a wider usage of marijuana in recent years.

“It’s not so much of a desire, on many people’s part to use marijuana,” Martin says, “as it is to recognize that arresting people and giving them a criminal record for smoking marijuana doesn’t make sense.”

Opposition to marijuana, Marin says, comes from a couple of different directions. Some pharmaceutical and alcohol companies don’t want to see increased availability of an alternative to their products. Police agencies benefit from being able to target marijuana users or sellers, too, as do private prison companies who incarcerate them.

“Marijuana users are the low hanging fruit,” Martin says.

Martin says that the argument against marijuana also comes from concerned parents, and those who have seen the effects of the drug trade first hand. Martin however, says those arguments fall short.

“We need to keep asking ourselves if we’d rather put the control of drugs in the hands of law abiding citizens acting under careful regulation and oversight,” Martin says, “or continue to leave it in the hands of criminals who have no incentive to restrict use and distribute the drugs in a responsible manner.”

As support for legalizing marijuana grows, Martin says that the path forward will begin with local jurisdictions.