HOUSTON -- Wendy Davis, the Democratic state senator expected to win her party’s nomination for governor, says she supports legalization of medical marijuana and she would consider decriminalizing possession of small amounts of the drug.
Davis’ remark in response to questions posed during an editorial board meeting with The Dallas Morning News put a Texas campaign spotlight on a hot-button issue in many states across the nation. Reporters attending a media event at a southwest Houston school asked as many questions about marijuana as her newly unveiled education plans.
The senator said Texas has an opportunity to observe the impact of legalization in other states and discussing whether lawmakers should institute similar reforms here.
“I think these are important decisions to be made by the voters of Texas, but if this is an issue that the Legislature wants to bring forward for voter consideration I certainly would be supportive.”
She told newspaper editors in Dallas she’s not sure how she would vote if Texas held a referendum on legalizing marijuana like the ones in Washington and Colorado.
"I want to wait and see what happens in Colorado," Davis said, according to a transcript of the meeting. "Do I have any objections to the fact that citizens might want to legalize marijuana? No, I don't. But I think watching to see how this experiment plays out in other states is probably advisable before I could tell you for sure."
Her remarks come just weeks after Gov. Rick Perry generated headlines with remarks about decriminalizing marijuana he made during an economic forum in Switzerland.
“What I can do, as governor of the second largest state in the nation, is to implement policies that start us towards a decriminalization and keep young people from going into prison,” Perry said.
Although some accounts interpreted Perry’s remarks as a call for loosening marijuana laws in Texas, he was actually referring to the state’s longstanding practice of using drug courts to avoid jail time for non-violent offenders. Perry opposes legalizing the drug and would continue to make selling it illegal.
Supporters of legalizing marijuana pointed to Davis’ remarks as the latest evidence that public opinion on the issue is changing rapidly.
“Over the past couple of years, we’ve just seen a domino effect, with the president coming out and saying it’s a safe substance than alcohol,” said Dante Cuccurullo, the leader of the north Houston chapter of NORML, which favors legalization. “Now the Texas state governor is coming out and saying he would be in favor of some sort of decriminalization. And now other candidates are doing the same thing. I think we’re really seeing a change in public opinion.”