Supporting Medical Cannabis is a Political Win for Texas Republicans
By Dwight Clark, Shawn Hauser, Jerrico Perez
May 18, 2021
Supporting legal access to medical cannabis is a political win for Republican elected officials seeking to expand their base and appeal to more younger voters. Recent elections in conservative states demonstrate strong support among Republicans in Texas and throughout the country. Of the 25 states that Donald Trump won in 2020:
13 Republican-controlled states have comprehensive medical cannabis programs
9 Republican-controlled states have a low-THC medical program (including Texas)
Voters in conservative strongholds like Mississippi, South Dakota, and Montana all approved cannabis policy reform by wide margins in 2020, and medical cannabis proposals received a larger vote share than Trump in South Dakota and Mississippi. These election outcomes demonstrate that cannabis policy — and specifically medical cannabis access — is a relatively popular issue for many Republican voters. If the GOP wants to remain competitive, it may want to consider embracing green as the new red.
|State||Voted for Donald Trump||
Voted for Cannabis Policy Initiatives
|South Dakota||62%||70% for medical cannabis, 54% for adult-use|
|Montana||57%||57% for adult-use|
|Mississippi||58%||65% for medical cannabis|
Even in Texas, a bastion of conservative politics, statewide polls show voters—especially Republicans—continue to support cannabis reform by wide margins:
81% of Texas Republican voters believe cannabis possession should be legal in some form, according to a February 2021 University of Texas/Texas Tribune Poll.
72% of Texas Republican voters believe cannabis should be legal in some form, according to a statewide survey conducted by the University of Houston Hobby School of Public Affairs in January 2021.
64% of all Texans believe the state should legalize and tax cannabis, according to an October 2020 poll by Raise Your Hand Texas Foundation.
Republicans are also among the state's legislators leading the push for reform. House Bill 1535, a proposal to fix and expand the Texas medical cannabis program, was authored by Republicans — Rep. Stephanie Klick and Republican Sen. Charles Schwertner — and last month it received overwhelming approval from the state House of Representatives, including the majority of Republican members.
Republican support for legalization is not limited to Texas and has rapidly increased nationwide in recent years. Polls conducted in April 2021 found:
62% of Republicans in the U.S. believe cannabis should be made legal, according to a Quinnipiac University poll.
63% of Republicans ages 18-29 and 53% of Republicans ages 30-49 say cannabis should be legal, according to the Pew Research Center.
With strong support also existing among Democrats, it is clear that medical cannabis would be a political winner for Republican candidates.
And it is not just Republican voters — conservative organizations like the Reason Foundation and the Koch-founded Americans for Prosperity support legalization and recently started a conservative-focused policy shop called the Cannabis Freedom Alliance. Americans for Prosperity sees cannabis reform as a natural area where the conservative value of limited government is most salient and, to that end, supports:
Federal de-scheduling and criminal justice reform;
Promoting entrepreneurship in free and open markets; and
Competitive and reasonable tax rates.
Many state legislatures are in the final days of session. This year, Republican legislators in Texas and beyond have an opportunity to help expand access to medical cannabis for vulnerable patients while satisfying their voter base and earning a clear victory for conservative values. While attention to this issue has historically been focused on blue states, Republicans still have a unique opportunity to lead on the topic and demonstrate how their vision for the country can include medical cannabis reform and work for all Americans. For example, the GOP-controlled Alabama Legislature passed a medical cannabis bill earlier this month, and it was signed into law by Republican Gov. Kay Ivey.
Republicans have an opportunity to achieve a similar policy and political victory in Texas. If they take the lead on medical cannabis this session, their constituents may very well reward them at the ballot box next election.