SB140: A Bill to Watch for Texans in 2021

I want to begin by stating that any views or positions herein are the views of me, the author, and no one else. I cannot and do not speak on behalf of any other authors or persons associated with Cosas Totum.

I am neither a Democrat nor a Republican: I don’t like political parties. I don’t like the groupthink that comes with it, the hypocrisy of groups that purport to speak for millions, or the rat-king-like entanglement of parties and corporatists who partially dictate party positions. The only reason I say that is to prevent people from complaining that this is some partisan hack-job of an article. It won’t work, I’m sure. But, dear reader, you have now been informed that I am writing this not as a partisan but as someone who is capable of analyzing each issue individually and arriving at my own conclusions regardless of how they fit in one party line or another. Okay. That’s out of the way now. Onto the actual article.

SB140

Senate Bill 140 was pre-filed by Texas State Senator-elect Roland Gutierrez, a Democrat from San Antonio. Mr. Gutierrez has been a Texas House representative for the past five legislative sessions, and was elected to the senate in November 2020. If passed, SB140 would be known as the Real Solutions Act. A copy of the proposed bill can be found here.

If passed, SB140 would amend the Texas Health & Safety Code to legalize the sale, possession, delivery, and use of marijuana for adults over the age of 21. In fact, SB140 would create a cannabis industry in Texas. This is huge news. A study conducted by law firm Vincente Sederberg, LLP suggests that such legalization could generate $1.1 billion in taxes every two years. The same report indicates that between 20,000 and 40,000 jobs would be created in Texas.

Naturally, such a law would also free up county and state jails and prisons for folks who are an actual threat to society in place of people who just want to order takeout and watch Half Baked. In the same Vincente Sederberg study above, it is estimated that Texas could save $311 million per year in criminal justice expenses. That means there is a chance for lower taxes, and that any taxes collected could be used for infrastructure and other items that provide daily convenience for Texans.

And this is to say nothing of the boost the hospitality industry would likely see. Hotels, restaurants, resorts, and small businesses, especially in tourist destinations like Corpus Christi, San Antonio, and the small towns around Big Bend National Park would be expected to recover from the substantial hits they have taken because of Covid. Finally, the State could see increased revenue in the form of licensing and registration fees for establishing dispensaries, farms, and other marijuana-related businesses.

Reaction and Projection

Speaker of the Texas House Dennis Bonnen (R-Angleton) said marijuana legalization “could augment the shortfall” of the Texas budget. However, he is against legalization, saying the risks of legalization outweigh the benefits. He did approve a decriminalization bill in 2019, but the bill died in the senate.

In 2019 the Texas Legislature did legalize production and possession of certain hemp products. This measure has cut down on the number of marijuana-related arrests due to the difficulty in proving that any given substance is hemp versus marijuana. The difficulty lies not in the test itself, but in the expense and cost-benefit analysis. Even if an arresting agency wants to run the tests to prove a substance is marijuana, the penalty for possession of a small amount is negligible and therefore not worth the expense and hassle.

Other marijuana-related bills will be debated when the Texas Legislature assembles in January. El Paso Democrat Joseph Moody has pre-filed House Bill 447 that would provide sweeping legalization. Additionally, Representative Erin Zwiener (D-Driftwood) pre-filed HB441, providing for legalization and regulation of marijuana. As of this writing, at least 13 bills related to marijuana legalization have been pre-filed. (A good summary can be found here). These bills are worth following once the legislature meets in January.

If marijuana legalization is an issue close to your heart, contact your state representative and state senator. Click here to find the appropriate representative and senator to contact. The Texas Legislature only meets in odd-numbered years, so if no bill is passed in 2021, it is unlikely any policy will change until 2023 at the earliest. I must admit that my interest in this is purely financial because I am an attorney and would love to expand my client-base by helping folks establish legal marijuana businesses. Of course, there’s also the more libertarian-minded thought that adults should be able to make their own decisions about what to do with their spare time, but that’s a different soapbox for a different day.

Whatever your reasons for wanting (or not wanting) legalization, your voice deserves to be heard. And if that isn’t enough motivation for you, think about this: Oklahoma has legalized medical marijuana. Oklahoma. Do you really want to be seen as a state less free than Oklahoma? I didn’t think so.

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