Estimates show legal marijuana could produce $1 billion in tax revenue, and long-time opponents now seem open to the idea.
Slowly but surely the idea of recreational marijuana has gained steam in the unlikeliest of states — Texas. The Houston Young Republicans and Texas NORML called upon Texas Gov. Gregg Abbott to legalize and tax the sale of cannabis in order to offset a looming $4.6 billion budget deficit.
Lawmakers have voiced similar ideas. In a recent webinar, State Rep. Dustin Burrows, a Republican, discussed recreational marijuana and gambling as alternative revenue streams to explore in Texas. GOP Speaker Dennis Bonnen presented the idea in a recent local TV interview, but was hesitant to call legalization a cure-all.
“The state budget is so large, there’s no singular solution to a budget challenge,” said Speaker Bonnen. “So legalization of marijuana should be considered next session by those who want to bring it forward, but it probably doesn’t produce a solution to the budget challenge we’ll be facing. It certainly could be a help. It could augment the shortfall. But I don’t believe it’s anywhere near a singular solution.”
Recent polls show a plurality of Texans support fully legalizing the plant. But impassioned attempts to legalize medical marijuana fell short in the last legislative session. Bonnen added he wouldn’t pursue recreational cannabis as a post-pandemic economic solution and doesn’t believe it has the votes to pass.
“No, [I would not,]” he replied. “I think it creates other financial costs outside of the benefit of the tax income.”
Heather Fazio, director of Texans for Responsible Marijuana Policy, previously estimated that legalizing recreational marijuana could produce a $1 billion tax revenue windfall. Other states have suggested retail cannabis as a post-pandemic boost to economies, including New Jersey, New York, New Mexico, and Pennsylvania.
Said Fazio, “When our state is facing an unprecedented economic downturn we have to look at alternatives.”