Nearly 100 Years After Marijuana Was Banned, Will Texas Legalize The Drug?

Jan 16, 2014

Texas has some of the country's strictest laws against marijuana -- and they date back nearly 100 years. But new polls show growing support across the state to legalize marijuana use. This weekend, drug reform advocates are gathering in Dallas for the first major drug policy conference of 2014, hosted by Mothers Against Teen Violence.

Who supports making marijuana legal?

Shaun McAlister says he’s always been a “fan of the herb,” but he’s not about to give up the legalization fight and move to Colorado or Washington, states that allow recreational marijuana sales.

“Like hell I’m abandoning Texas,” says McAlister, 29, a Fort Worth native. “I don’t want to move away to be more free. That’s silly to me.”

McAlister runs DFW NORML, the North Texas chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws.

“It’s time for a change,” McAlister says.

Polls show support

A 2013 poll in Texas conducted by Public Policy Polling showed a majority of support for both medical and recreational use of marijuana -- as well as a desire to change the state’s laws to lower penalties for recreational possession.

According to the poll, 58 percent of Texans "support making marijuana legal for adults and regulating it like alcohol," and 61 percent were in favor of decriminalizing marijuana possession of an ounce or less to a civil, not criminal offense, punishable by a fine of up to $100.

Not going to happen, state senator says

While the Texas Democratic Party endorsed marijuana decriminalization in 2012, Texas Republicans, like State Sen. John Carona, aren’t budging.

As for those who think legalization is possible when the legislature meets in 2015, Carona says: “Pardon the pun, but those people are high.”

“Drug policy in Texas and marijuana legalization is not going to happen in 2015," he said. "All anyone needs to do is look at the makeup of the House and the Senate, realizing how conservative we are here in Texas. That hope for change is just wishful thinking.”

A century-long ban

To understand why marijuana is illegal in Texas, we have to go back 100 years, to the border city of El Paso.

Visit KERA’s Breakthroughs blog to learn more about that history, and read more about what marijuana supporters and opponents have to say.