In response to Biden’s announcement, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s spokesperson, Renae Eze, issued a statement making it clear that pardons of marijuana offenses will not be happening in the Lone Star state.
“Texas is not in the habit of taking criminal justice advice from the leader of the defund police party and someone who has overseen a criminal justice system run amuck with cashless bail and a revolving door for violent criminals,” reads the statement. “The Governor of Texas can only pardon individuals who have been through the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles system with a recommendation for pardon.”
Biden’s federal pardon will affect at least 6,500 people, according to The New York Times. It will not apply to people convicted of selling or distributing marijuana or to non-citizens who were in the U.S. unlawfully at the time of their arrest.
Gov. Abbott has previously expressed interest in reducing the criminal penalty for marijuana possession. At a campaign event in Edinburg in January, Abbott said he believes “prison and jail is a place for dangerous criminals who may harm others, and small possession of marijuana is not the type of violation that we want to stockpile jails with.”
Still, the governor has consistently been against fully legalizing the drug, as reported by The Dallas Express.
Abbott’s Democratic gubernatorial opponent, Beto O’Rourke, took the opportunity to share that if elected, he plans to take things a step further than just pardoning those convicted of marijuana possession.
“When I’m governor, we will finally legalize marijuana in Texas and expunge the records of those arrested for marijuana possession,” O’Rourke tweeted Thursday following Biden’s announcement.
O’Rourke has previously argued that legal marijuana would provide significant revenue to the state and reduce property taxes, as reported in The Dallas Express.
“Right now, we spend half a billion dollars a year locking people up for a substance that is legal in most of the country, most of the rest of the developed world,” O’Rourke said while in Dallas in April. “We also lose out on, conservatively speaking, half a billion dollars in tax revenue.”
Since 2012, 19 states, Washington, D.C., and Guam have legalized marijuana for recreational use. According to a recent Dallas Morning News-University of Texas at Tyler poll, more than half of Texans either support or strongly support legalizing marijuana.
67% of those surveyed last month said they would either support or strongly support the legalization of marijuana for medicinal use. Last year, the Texas Legislature did approve a bill to expand the state’s medical marijuana program to include all forms of post-traumatic stress disorder and cancer.