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Texas lawmakers discuss what legalizing marijuana could look like

Texas lawmakers hold hearing to examine legalizing marijuana for recreational use
Texas lawmakers hold hearing to examine legalizing marijuana for recreational use 02:19

AUSTIN ( – For the first time ever, Texas lawmakers are holding serious conversations on how they could legalize marijuana for adult recreational use. A bill presented to the House Committee on Licensing and Administrative Procedures Wednesday, HB 3652, is not expected to advance, but Representative Joe Moody says that wasn't his goal.

"I do want to impress on you how historic this is," he told colleagues on the committee.

Mood has spent years working to reform the state's marijuana laws.

"It's is no longer a conversation that relegated to the fringes of discussion at the capital," he told CBS News Texas in November.

As he prepared for the start of the current legislative session, Moody said one of his goals would be getting a public hearing on what a marijuana retail market could look like.

"What does the tax revenue look like? How would we regulate it?" he said. "The time is coming where this will be the law of the land, and so we might as well get in front of that."

It took years of discussing medicinal marijuana for lawmakers to create the Texas Compassionate Use Program. He reasons it'll take years of discussing recreational marijuana regulation to convince them it's needed. That discussion began with Wednesday's hearing.

"No cannabis retail market bill has ever gotten a hearing like this in the Texas Legislature," he told the committee.

His proposal, a starting point for debate, would create a 10% tax specific to marijuana with revenue split evenly between the state and local government.

Licenses would be required for those growing, selling, transporting, or testing it, although individuals would be allowed to grow or possess it in small amounts for personal use.

Legal sale and consumption would also be limited, much like alcohol, to adults who are 21 years of age or older.

Hundreds of Texans wrote in expressing their opinions. A handful showed up to testify in person before the committee.

Opponents expressed concern legalization would lead to wider use of marijuana, causing health issues or creating a path to more serious drug use. 

"This house committee is the gatekeeper to keeping the addiction for profit industry from expanding the marijuana nightmare to other families," said Aubree Adams, who founded the group Every Brain Matters.

Others argue marijuana can be beneficial, provides a safe alternative to opioids for pain relief, and is already easy to access on the black market.

"My customer base is not Oklahoma," said Estella Castro, owner of Austinite Cannabis Co.

She has two cannabis shops just across the state line and reports she paid $158,000 in taxes last year to Oklahoma.

While she requires buyers show an Oklahoma issued ID and a medical marijuana card, she suspects most of her sales are made to Texans who've managed to obtain the necessary records.

"They have a Texas plate and they come in and buy $500 to $600 worth of product and they leave," she said.

The topic still draws some laughter.

"Did you bring any brownies?" one committee member could be heard asking Rep. Moody.

Even lawmakers opposed to legalization, though, say they're ready to start talking about it.

"I don't support what your bill is trying to do," said the committee's chair, Rep. Kevin King. "I just think it's time for the conversation.

"The ability to have the conversation is a big deal for folk to advocate on this issue.  So I'm very grateful," responded Moody.

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