Texas is looking to boost its economy by legalizing recreational marijuana, and its Legislature passed a bill Tuesday that could do just that.
The state’s marijuana bill has drawn criticism from opponents and supporters alike, who say it could set up a system of marijuana dispensaries across the state, and it’s unclear if the legislation would allow for a regulated system.
The law was approved Tuesday by the state Senate, but it’s likely to face opposition from lawmakers, business leaders and civil liberties groups who say the bill is just another attempt to stifle innovation in the industry.
“The bill is an affront to Texas,” said Sam Chatterjee, executive director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws.
“We’re just going to see what happens.”
The bill also gives state authorities broad discretion to shut down marijuana shops, which could make them a source of revenue for local governments.
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The measure, sponsored by state Sen. José Menéndez, R-New Braunfels, would give local authorities broad authority to shut marijuana shops down.
Under the legislation, it would be up to the governor and attorney general to determine which shops should be shut down.
“If a local government has reason to believe that a marijuana shop poses a threat to public safety, it could be the local government that would be given the authority to seize those businesses,” Menéngez said.
The bill would allow authorities to seize any marijuana-related businesses that are suspected of violating the law, or to close any storefronts where marijuana is sold.
The legislation also allows for the creation of an agency called the Cannabis Control Commission, which would be charged with issuing permits and licenses to marijuana dispensaries and regulating them.
The proposed legislation would give the commission authority to set up rules for retail marijuana sales in the state.
The Marijuana Policy Project, which advocates for legalization, said in a statement that it is “shocked that Texas would give away this important authority to a law enforcement agency that will only be empowered to shut off businesses based on criminal records.”
The Marijuana Industry Group, which represents state and local marijuana businesses, said the bill “sounds like a blatant attempt to regulate marijuana in Texas by removing a key element of the state law.”
“The governor’s office is using this to try to shut out innovative businesses, such as medical marijuana and the medical cannabis industry,” the group said.
“This bill would effectively eliminate the medical marijuana industry, effectively forcing the Texas Medical Marijuana Industry Association to abandon Texas.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.