A survey involving over a thousand Texas adults shows two in three support cannabis legalization to raise revenue for its struggling education sector.
The majority of independent-voting respondents were in support, as well as half of Republican voters and three quarters of Democrat-voters and liberals.
Cannabis legalization was preferred over the options of raising taxes on sales, sugary drinks and corporation taxes for school funding.
Texas is currently in the bottom fifth of US states in terms of educational attainment and pupil spending is below the national average.
Cannabis remains illegal in Texas. It is one of only 19 states that imposes jail time for cannabis possession and currently has no effective medical cannabis law. However, hemp and CBD products have been legal in Texas since 2019.
Changes are afoot as lawmakers file bills that propose radical changes to the current cannabis laws, including full legalization for adults aged 21 and over.
Results from a public opinion survey show the majority of Texas adults want cannabis legalized in order to fund its struggling K-12 education system.
1,032 residents were asked what they would like to see taxed in order to raise the much-needed revenue, showing that 64% of all respondents supported cannabis legalization. This is on-par with hiking alcohol taxes but slightly less than legalizing and taxing casino gambling (66%), increasing tobacco tax (77%) and introducing a new tax on vaping equipment and supplementary products (78%).
A Republican Show of Support (And Why This Matters)
The demographic breakdown of the poll shows that half of Republicans and conservatives polled supported legalizing cannabis for this purpose, along with 71% of independents, 66% of moderates and 75% of Democrats and liberals.
Republicans showing support for cannabis legalization as a way to fund K-12 education is vitally important. Historically, Democrats and libertarians have shown support for cannabis legalization, while Republicans have opposed it.
This Republican shift in attitude toward cannabis is a healthy start. Texas is a well-known Red state with conservative attitudes and principles, and very strict when it comes to cannabis. Minor possession of up to two ounces is a class B misdemeanor and can land you up to 180 days in prison or a $2000 fine.
How Cannabis Legalization May Help Fund K-12 Education
Texas is currently in the bottom fifth of US states for educational attainment and is 49th in the country in terms of pupil spending. The state currently spends, per pupil, only $7,937 compared to the US national average of $11,667 and its school finance ranked 45th in the nation. Over $7 billion was cut from Texas’ education budget between 2011 and 2017, and an extra $3.3 billion is needed to plug the financial gap that currently exists in special education services.
Heather Fazio, director of Texans for Responsible Marijuana Policy, told Marijuana Moment that these findings are a clear indication that Texas is “ready for marijuana legalization”. She added that proper regulation and tax rates will be instrumental in “protecting consumers and disempowering cartels”.
Tax revenue from legal recreational cannabis in other US states is impressive. Veteran states such as California and Colorado enjoy upwards of an estimated $6.2 million and $3 million in tax revenue, while legalization newcomers such as Illinois and Michigan collects roughly $200 million and $80 million.
Hemp-Derived CBD Products are Legal
Hemp and CBD products are legal in Texas (as long as THC content is below 0.3%) due to a law-change in 2019. However, the legislation brought widespread disruption to the state as it struggled to fund lab testing for felony and low-level possession cases, with prosecutions dropping by over half since the law was brought in.
Is Texas Adult-Use Cannabis Legalization on the Horizon?
Texas lawmakers pre-filed bills earlier this month that seek to overturn the state’s outdated cannabis laws.
The bills range from removing the current THC cap on medical cannabis and allowing doctors to prescribe cannabis for any medical condition, to fully legalizing cannabis for adults aged 21 years and over.
House Speaker Dade Phelan (R) confirmed that some of the proposed changes will gather momentum in the House, potentially spelling the end of an 89 year-old law that currently stipulates a minimum of 180 days’ imprisonment for possession and a $2000 fine.
Should the bills pass, Texas’s next steps could be to join states such as Nevada, Oregon and Washington in designating a percentage of tax revenue from cannabis sales to funding education.
Earlier this month, Nevada Governor Steve Sisolak (D) vowed that “marijuana tax dollars will continue to fund education” which will “ensure districts can meet the needs of students during the pandemic and beyond”.