Anybody who has stood a little too close to Willie’s tour bus or has drifted through the vibrant wonderland that is Eeyore’s Birthday Party understands that pot use is big business in Austin. The city’s enormous student population, sprawling music scene and Dazed & Confused vibe allow it to be fertile soil for herbal treatments.
Of the four principal marijuana bills filed at the statehouse this year, only one has gotten a favorable committee vote — it’s yet to receive a full House vote. That proposed law would ease the law so no one with less than an ounce of grass would face arrest or jail time. Recreational marijuana like they have in Colorado appears to be a pipe dream in Texas.
Dallas city council members, in a way, have recently passed a law that decriminalizes possession. Those caught with less than four ounces get order to appear in court and a ticket instead of being booked and arrested in jail.
Texas lawmakers have brushed aside proposals to legalize marijuana fora long time. And, it was not until 2015 that the state passed a law allowing for a very limited use of cannabis oils for individuals who have epilepsy and suffer from seizures.
Several other start-ups have been considering different approaches to get a portion of the huge marijuana industry, ranging from 3D food printing companies to pest control for growing facilities. Add to that, SXSW Interactive created panels to dive into the potential of the cannabis industry. And there’s even a Green Rush Meetup group where professionals talk about cannabis-related opportunities.
Texas just gets a taste of the potential earnings.
Even for non-marijuana businesses — bars, for example — the 4/20 stoner holiday has become an opportunity to throw parties and other celebrations.
he health benefits of marijuana continue to be questionable — and fluctuate broadly depending on how frequently and in what format the ganja is used. Health professionals and scientists continue to study and debate the benefits and dangers of marijuana use.
For the time being, we continue the war on drugs in our state. The marijuana market is controlled by illegal dealers and patrolled by law enforcement and lawyers in Texas. The state is a pathway for illicit commerce. And it has also become an enormous opportunity for entrepreneurs.
As has been extensively reported, Colorado drew more state revenue ($70 million) from recreational pot use in 2015 than it did from alcohol — in fact, that marijuana tax nearly doubled alcohol tax in part due to the higher tax rates on marijuana. The marijuana industry was projected to eventually become a $7.1 billion industry in the United States.
And that means lots of opportunities that are simply out of reach for Texas entrepreneurs. Meanwhile, it is creating large business opportunities in four states and Washington D.C. that have legalized, ranging from on-demand start-ups in Washington D.C. to high tech vaporizers in Colorado.
Even Austin’s hometown hero, Willie Nelson, has gotten in on the business, starting his branded smoke, Willie’s Reserve, on 4/20 last year. However, the company isn’t based here — it is in Washington and Colorado.
Meanwhile, Texas has snubbed out the issue whenever it appears.
It’s nearly certain for it to come up again at the statehouse this spring, then maybe again when the legislature reconvenes in 2019. Surveys have demonstrated that Texans are becoming more and more supportive of legalizing marijuana either in small amounts or across the board.