Legalize marijuana group sets up shop in Austin

AUSTIN (KXAN) — One group is hoping to change marijuana laws in Texas. The Marijuana Policy Project helped to pass Colorado’s recreational marijuana laws back in 2012, and now they’re setting up shop here in Austin.

The Marijuana Policy Project says they’re giving themselves five years to legalize marijuana in Texas. They’ve already helped pass similar laws in 19 other states, and now they’re bringing that same game plan to The Lone Star State.

“People in Texas think that change is impossible,” said Rob Kampia, The Marijuana Project’s executive director. “When I say our plan is five years, they’re sometimes surprised that it’s such a short term plan, but I think its completely reasonable.”

GOING IN-DEPTH // Tax Revenue

  • Colorado is expecting to rake in $184 million in tax revenue in the first 18 months of recreational marijuana sales.
  • While it is illegal, Austin and Travis County both have cite and release policies for people caught with small amounts of marijuana.

As other states take steps to legalize marijuana, the process in Texas would be different from many others.

“Most states actually do that by ballot initiative, but Texas doesn’t have that process,” said Austin attorney Jamie Spencer.

Spencer, who is a legal aide for The National Organization for the Legalization of Marijuana, says that means Texas legislators would directly have to make the decision.

“Although marijuana decriminalization is more than 50 percent popular in Texas, since we can’t use ballot initiatives, it’s going to be a tougher process,” Spencer said.

But the Marijuana Policy Project says it is ready for the challenge.

“We were the organization that legalized marijuana in Colorado,” said Kampia. “We are hoping to pass certain measures through the legislature in 2015, 2017 and the ultimate victory in 2019.”

The group hopes to pass medical marijuana laws, and laws similar to alcohol sales where adults 21 and older would be able to buy marijuana in small amounts.

“It will generate tax money instead of causing taxpayers to lose money,” Kampia said. “Also, police should be able to spend their time on more important projects.”

MPP is also ready to spend some cash for their cause, as they plan to spend about $500,000 over the next five years.

“We have a lobbyist in the Capitol. We usually have a grassroots organizer, and we sometimes run TV ads,” Kampia added.

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