A poll released this week by the University of Texas shows 49-percent of Texans support making possession of marijuana legal, and it’s these statistics -- along with a shift in attitudes amongst elected officials -- that has caused one of the nation's most powerful marijuana advocacy groups to set up shop in Austin.
Chris Lindsey is a legislative analyst with the Marijuana Policy Project, and says “Texas makes a lot of sense. We are now going to start focusing a lot of our attention on moving the ball in Texas [for legislative change]. Whether it’s to encourage decriminalization to help pass a substantive medical marijuana law and ultimately to try to implement at tax-and-regulate scheme for marijuana for adults.”
But how does such a group accomplish this in a conservative state like Texas? Lindsey says Republican attitudes are changing in the same direction of public opinion on the issue, pointing to comments made by Governor Rick Perry about the path to decriminalization.
The group plans to use data to convince state lawmakers, detailing how much it costs the state to fight a "war on marijuana," how much tax revenues could be gained from legalization, and the humane aspects behind legalizing medical marijuana. Lindsey says border-state politicians know better than anyone the cost of enforcing drug-policies against cartels who profit from those same laws.
But he says it isn’t politicians who are the biggest obstacles for marijuana reform.
Lindsey says, “Generally speaking, law enforcement seem to be the most resistant because they’ve been told to believe that marijuana under every circumstance is bad.”
He says a good portion of a police department's funding goes toward enforcing a state's marijuana laws, and when those laws change, funding sometimes disappears.
Lindsey says the Marijuana Policy Project and its state coalition will make sure every group is invited to the table to help design a solution that is unique to Texas.