For the first time ever, a new poll shows a majority of Texas registered voters support the legalization of marijuana, News Radio 1200 WOAI reports.
A new University of Texas Texas Tribune poll shows 53% of Texans say pot should be legal for recreational use. 31% say legalize it for medicinal use only, and just 16% now say marijuana should remain illegal in all cases.
Daron Shaw, a U.T. professor who runs the poll, says younger Texans are more likely than older Texans to support legalization, and Democrats are still more likely to back it than Republicans, even though more Republicans are supporting the 'libertarian' appeal of legalization.
"Republcians are more likely to oppose, Democrats are more likely to support, that that is changing," Shaw said. "In fact, most of the movement has been among independents and soft Republicans, less strongly identified Republicans.
"Pollsters say a lot of factors are going into the state's move toward supporting legalization, which Shaw compares to the numbers he saw a decade ago as same sex marriage began to gain traction in Texas
.He says the fact that other states have legalized marijuana has helped, as well as, interestingly, the business opportunities marijuana presents. Others support taking a money making product away from the cartels, but Shaw says a key mover of opinion is a greater feeling that it is silly and a waste of time for police to arrest otherwise law abiding people simply because they have a joint in their pocket.
"On the one hand, not incarcerating people about low level offenses, and we are also seeing support for marijuana as a business perspective," Shaw said.
Several Texas jurisdictions, including Bexar County, are moving toward a 'cite and release' program, in which people arrested with small amounts of marijuana are, at the discretion of the officer, given a ticket which will not appear on the person's criminal record if the person pays the ticket and undergoes a drug treatment class.
Several measures to legalize marijuana in Texas are expected to be introduced when the Legislature meets in January.