HOUSTON — A large majority of Texans support easing restrictions on both medical and recreational marijuana, according to a new survey from the University of Houston’s Hobby School of Public Affairs.
It found 82 percent of Texans favor expanding the state’s medical marijuana program, 67 percent want to legalize recreational use by adults 21 and over and 81 percent want to decriminalize having a small amount by making it punishable with a ticket instead of jail time.
“Four-fifths is a very large number,” said Mark Jones, a senior research fellow and a co-author on the study. “It’s tough to get four-fifths of Texans to agree on anything, but they agree that the state should have medical marijuana and should have an implementation of the decriminalization of marijuana.”
Jones credits the changing mindset to a growing number of younger Texans and medical marijuana programs in three-quarters of other states.
Currently, the Compassionate Use Program run by Texas Department of Public Safety allows patients with a prescription access to products with no higher than 1% THC, the compound that makes users feel high, to treat autism, cancer, epilepsy, P-T-S-D and other ailments.
“Most advocates of medical marijuana do not consider Texas’ compassionate use legislation to be medical marijuana legislation,” said Jones. “It’s far too limited.”
The UH survey showed more than half of Republicans in support of all categories.
However, Jones says some GOP lawmakers fear expanding medical marijuana is a slippery slope toward higher recreational use or full legalization.
“I would say that the Llieutenant governor’s probably the toughest sell, but he’s not that far away from Governor Abbott on it,” said Jones. “I think Speaker Dade Phelan’s likely to be more supportive.”
The Texas Legislature website shows 16 bills on cannabis had been filed as of Friday.
Jones believes a narrowly-tailored medical marijuana bill is the one most likely to reach the governor’s desk.