SAN ANTONIO – Editor’s note: The Bexar Facts-KSAT-San Antonio Report poll is a partnership that launched in Feb. 2020 with the aim of informing and engaging the San Antonio community. See the results of the fifth poll here.
The legalization of recreational marijuana use and gambling in Texas has faced uphill battles for years in the Republican-controlled Legislature, but a new poll shows a solid majority of likely voters in Bexar County support allowing both.
Results from a new Bexar Facts-KSAT-San Antonio Report 2021 Q1 poll show that more than six-in-10 likely voters are in support of legalizing and taxing recreational marijuana and gambling for adults in Texas.
The state allows very limited medicinal marijuana and a few forms of gambling, like horse races, but there has been a push in this year’s legislative session to move further and legalize recreational use of marijuana and gambling as a source for more state revenue amid the COVID-19 pandemic and budget shortfalls.
Voters, at least in Bexar County, appear to want the same thing, but both are likely long shots to clear Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick’s uber-conservative Senate or Gov. Greg Abbott’s veto pen (particularly in a year preceding a GOP primary for both.)
When asked specifically about legalizing marijuana, 64% of likely voters either strongly supported or somewhat supported the issue. A total of 32% said they would either somewhat or strongly oppose legalizing marijuana.
Texas currently allows minimal use of low-THC marijuana to treat certain medical conditions. The legislature passed the marijuana “Compassionate Use” law in 2015. It allowed for doctors to prescribe cannabis and products made from the plant to epilepsy patients. The program has been expanded over the years to include other ailments but is still much more limited than the majority of U.S. states.
New Mexico recently became the 16th state to legalize recreational marijuana and nearly 40 states allow it for medicinal or recreational use.
This year’s legislative session has featured more than 20 bills to expand the use of small amounts of recreational marijuana use for adults.
State Sen. Roland Gutierrez, a Democrat from San Antonio, filed SB 140 to allow for recreational use for Texans 21 and older. Gutierrez said in November that legalization would result in an estimated $3.2 billion in state revenue and 30,000 high-paying jobs.
In 2019, the Texas House passed a bill to decriminalize small amounts of marijuana, but it failed in the Senate.
Similar to the marijuana debate, proponents of legalized gambling in Texas say it would be a financial windfall for the state. One of the latest efforts includes legislation filed by Rep. John Kuempel, R-Seguin, who backed a plan by Las Vegas Sands to legalize casino gambling in Texas. The plan would create special casino licenses for four destination resorts in Texas with one location in the San Antonio area.
Right now, there are only three casinos allowed to operate in Texas and they are run by federally recognized American Indian tribes. They are in Eagle Pass, El Paso and Livingston. Texas allows some other gaming like the state lottery, bingo and horse race betting.
Results from the new Bexar Facts-KSAT-San Antonio poll show 63% of likely voters support legalized gambling for adults in Texas with 32% opposing the measure and 5% responding that they “do not know” whether they support or oppose the issue.
State Republicans led by Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick have opposed efforts for years to expand gambling and sports betting. The Austin-American Statesman reported in February that Patrick said there was no way a bill to legalize gambling would get the votes it needed to pass. He also argued the financial aspect would not have a major impact as has been advertised.
The new Bexar Facts-KSAT-San Antonio poll was conducted from March 23 to 29 by phone and email in both English and Spanish. A total of 618 Bexar County residents were surveyed in the poll. The poll has a 4% margin of error. You can read more about the methodology here.
Read more from the poll on our Bexar Facts page: