Can Texans Vote to Legalize Marijuana
Citizens in Texas do not get to vote on laws. They can elect officials that will decide on laws for them but there is no direct way for Texans to decide for themselves. While a majority of Americans now support the legalization of marijuana, in Texas possession, use, and sale of the drug remains illegal and voters can not change that directly. That is, unless there is a constitutional amendment.
Constitutional Amendments in Texas
It turns out Texas amends its constitution quite often to let voters decide on issues themselves. During the last legislative session in 2017 there were seven constitutional amendments that went to voters. In the session before that in 2015 there were also seven amendments. There have been 505 amendments that have been adopted with 326 that have been approved by voters since 1876.
While there are hundreds of constitutional amendments proposed every year, most of them fail and never reach voters. Is there any indication that an amendment allowing Texas voters to decide if they want to legalize marijuana would pass?
Proposed Marijuana Amendments
Lets look at the proposed amendments first. House Joint Resolution (H.J.R.) 21 and Senate Joint Resolution (S.J.R.) 8 are both pretty much identical. S.J.R. 8 is reproduced in its entirety below.
A JOINT RESOLUTION
proposing a constitutional amendment to authorize and regulate the
possession, cultivation, and sale of cannabis.
BE IT RESOLVED BY THE LEGISLATURE OF THE STATE OF TEXAS:
SECTION 1. Article III, Texas Constitution, is amended by
adding Section 48 to read as follows:
Sec. 48. REGULATION OF CANNABIS. (a) In this section,
"cannabis" means the plant Cannabis sativa L., whether growing or
not, the seeds of that plant, and every compound, manufacture,
salt, derivative, mixture, or preparation of that plant or its
(b) The legislature by law shall authorize and regulate the
possession, cultivation, and sale of cannabis in this state.
SECTION 2. This proposed constitutional amendment shall be
submitted to the voters at an election to be held November 3, 2020.
The ballot shall be printed to provide for voting for or against the
proposition: "The constitutional amendment directing the
legislature to authorize and regulate the possession, cultivation,
and sale of cannabis."
The only difference between H.J.R. 21 and S.J.R. 8 is the voting dates, the House resolution proposes that voters decide on November 5, 2019 instead of November 3, 2020. To pass either would require a two-thirds vote in both the Texas House and the Texas Senate, that is 100 Congressmen and 21 Senators.
Both proposed amendments were authored by democrats. Just based on party lines, it seems unlikely that either amendment would pass. Republicans have traditionally been opposed to marijuana legalization but that attitude is quickly change. Still, there are only 65 Democrats in the House and 83 republicans. In the Senate, there are 12 democrats and 19 republicans. Even assuming that all Democrats would vote for such an amendment, which there is no guarantee of, the democrats would have to convince nearly half of the republican congressmen and nearly half of the republican senators to join them just to give Texans the vote on marijuana.
That is quite the tall order. There are no listed sponsors on either bill and as of yet there does not seem to be an indication of bipartisan support. While there are several other bills in the legislature that would expand marijuana legalization, having voters decide might be the hardest path.