State Senator-elect Roland Gutierrez pre-filed a bill this week that would legalize, regulate and tax medical and recreational marijuana in Texas if approved.
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Texas is one of the states that still hasn’t moved to legalize marijuana. However, San Antonio state senator Gutierrez is looking to change that.
In his campaign bid, Gutierrez pushed to legalize cannabis for adults and medical use. He believes this would help fund teacher salaries, law enforcement and border security, thus taking the burden off raising property taxes.
Marijuana and Job Creation In Texas
The law-maker believes that marijuana is the solution to the economic crisis experienced in Texas as a result of COVID-19.
In a news release, Gutierrez said the bill he filed would solve the unemployment crisis, creating about 30,000 high paying jobs.
“There is going to be a budget shortfall to affect all Texans next legislation session, however, I look forward to working with my colleagues to offer a real solution,” Gutierrez said in the news release. “This bill will generate new revenue and create at least 30,000 high paying jobs. Our state’s economic future is uncertain and in order to best serve our state, we have to look at cannabis legalization as a solution and not keep going back to the taxpayers and raise their taxes.”
Marijuana’s Role In Generating Tax Revenue in Texas
El Paso state Rep. Joe Moody also filed a marijuana legalization bill this week in advance of the 2021 legislative session.
Rep. Joseph Moody (D) has in past sessions been instrumental in leading efforts to decriminalize marijuana.
The lawmakers argue that on top of job creation, a legal marijuana industry could bring in hundreds of millions in tax revenue.
The numbers don’t lie and indeed Texas needs a huge break.
According to comptroller’s estimate, the amount of general revenue available for the state’s current two-year budget is projected to be roughly $11.5 billion less than originally estimated.
“As we see a number of states engaging around the country in a retail market, this is no longer an experiment,” Moody said. “It is also no secret that we are heading into some rough economic waters and we need to explore every possible revenue stream.”
Other Marijuana Bills At Play In Texas
Rep. Erin Zwiener (D) is at the forefront leading the decriminalization proposal dubbed HB 441. The bill looks to impose a fine on possession of certain marijuana amounts as well as drug paraphernalia.
“We’re pleased to see a variety of cannabis-related bills introduced so early in the pre-filing period,” Heather Fazio, director of Texans for Responsible Marijuana Policy, told Marijuana Moment in an email.
“Democratic and Republican lawmakers are making cannabis a priority. This is a good sign for advocates as we prepare for the upcoming legislative session,” she said.
Projected Benefits of Legalizing Marijuana in Texas
According to a report by Vicente Sederberg law firm, the state of Texas would see an estimated $2.7 billion per year in cannabis sales if legalized.
The cannabis law firm also predicts a profit of more than $1.1 billion dollars per biennium. This is if Texas taxed cannabis similarly to Colorado.
The state of Texas also stands to save money by legalizing marijuana, to the tune of $311 million per year.
Texas Passes Decriminalization Bill On Persons Caught With Small Amounts
Just last year, Texas took a major step in loosening its tight marijuana laws.
The Texas House approved a bill that would reduce the penalties for low-level possession of marijuana.
The bill dubbed House Bill 63 was curated by state Representative Joe Moody. It passed with 98-43 votes from the lower chamber. It was initially a decriminalization measure that was changed to one that reduce penalties for possession.
The bill lowers possession of 1 ounce or less from a Class B to a Class C misdemeanour. This classes it similarly to a traffic ticket.
“When I first proposed changing our criminal penalty for personal use of marijuana to a civil penalty, there was some support and even more caution,” Moody told other representatives.
“I’m not going to sacrifice the good for the perfect. If this is what we can do, then this is what we must do,” Moody said. “We can’t keep hauling 75,000 Texans to jail every year.”