HARLINGEN, Texas (KVEO) — Marijuana is a hot topic for the start of the 87th legislative session, which starts next week in Texas.
Every two years the state of Texas holds legislative sessions for 140 hours where lawmakers present new ideas for state laws.
“Making marijuana illegal…criminalizing has a toll not only an initial toll for having to pay to keep somebody in jail, it also stifles our economy,” said Texas house representative Terry Canales.
According to the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML), a marijuana legalization advocacy group, it costs $311 million for marijuana misdemeanor charges a year.
The executive director of the Texas chapter said that is money that could go into tax-payers pockets instead.
“There’s a great opportunity of, not only tax revenue of $1.1 million in the biennium, but also new jobs,” said Jax Finkel. “20 to 40,000 new jobs could be created and there’s also licensing fees $10 million per year in licensing fees.”
State Representative Jose Menendez District 26 said criminalizing marijuana is a medical disaster.
“But more importantly than any increase in revenue to the state would be the increse in relief to the patients,” said Menendez. “The people who don’t want to have narcotics, the people who don’t want to be on opioids, the people who want to have something that will help them without having any side effects.”
Canales sponsored House Bill 439, which asks to lower criminal penalties on concentrates, like edibles.
“Few years ago, a young man in Williamson County faced 99 years to life in state prison for a batch of marijuana brownies,” said Canales.
Finkel says “the people that are still being arrested are vastly people that are minorities.”
Canales is looking to this legislative session to make reforms on the ballots.
“If the lieutenant governor doesn’t want to call it up in the senate, call the people to vote on it,” said Canales. “Why should we be scared of adult Texans making decisions for themselves? And allowing the process in which official were elected to determine if we make marijuana legal.”