HOUSTON- One thing that won't be on the ballot in Texas next week, is whether to legalize marijuana. However, a growing number of states are considering it and supporters say it gives them more momentum here in our area.
Right now, recreational marijuana is legal in Alaska, Colorado, Oregon, Washington and Washington D.C. It's on the ballot in Arizona, California, Maine, Massachusetts and Nevada.
"It's been a part of my life since I was a child, family members growing up in Katy farming community believe it or not,” said Cara Bonin, Exectuive Director for Houston NORML. "This is a natural plant that god put on this earth."
She's paying close attention this election to how marijuana does on ballots across the country.
"I think what that is doing is bringing more awareness to the average voter here in Texas," said Bonin.
"Our members are pretty much split down the middle... some like it, some don't like it,” said Ray Hunt, with the Houston Police Officers’ Union who has some concerns. "You're looking at an increase of people who are driving or impaired or going to the hospital when you've had too much."
The Sheriff's Association of Texas even went a step further.
"We deal with so many people who are intoxicated or high, do we really need to legalize another method,” said A.J. Louderback, Jackson County Sheriff and Legislative Director for the association.
"It's certainly a very profitable industry, a lot of money is being made in terms of increased use, it kind of depends on who you ask,” said Katharine Neill, who studies drug policy for Rice University.
Neill says a lot of the data is still being collected and state laws are trying to catch up. As for how soon, it could be legal in Texas?
"I do think it will happen but 2020, 2022 I think we are talking several years in the future,” said Neill.
It all depends on who controls the power in Texas. That's because, right now, it cannot go on a ballot. Passing pot has to go through state lawmakers. However, Bonin says we've already taken the first step.
"Full legalization I think will take a few more legislative sessions, I think we got a really good foot in the door with the compassionate use act and I hope we can expand that in the 2017 legislative session,” said Bonin.
Here in Texas, The Compassionate Use Act allows medical marijuana to be used for some cases of epilepsy.
Neill believes we will see more marijuana bills during the next legislative session pushed for other medical reasons.
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