Pot of Money

How much money would legalizing marijuana bring to Texas? Billions.

How much money would legalizing marijuana bring to Texas? Billions.

The potential value of Texas' marijuana market? $3 billion. Photo courtesy of US Fish & Wildlife

Legalization of recreational and medical marijuana could generate a huge pot of money for Texas, with one estimate pegging the potential value of the state’s marijuana market at $3 billion.

Experts at Arcview Market Research, which tracks the U.S. marijuana industry, estimate the value of the legal market for recreational and medical marijuana in Texas could hit the $3 billion mark a few years after legalization occurs. The recreational segment of the Texas market likely would be “substantially bigger” than the medical segment, Tom Adams, editor-in-chief at Arcview, tells CultureMap.

Arcview bases its projection for the Texas marijuana market on trends in Colorado’s recreational and medical marijuana sectors, and on forecasts for the Florida market.

In Colorado, retailers sold $1.3 billion in recreational and medical marijuana, along with related products, in 2016. Colorado voters approved medical marijuana in 2000 and recreational marijuana in 2014. Florida voters approved medical marijuana in 2016. Arcview conservatively estimates Florida’s medical marijuana market will be worth $1.3 billion in 2021.

Across North America last year, consumers spent $53.3 billion on marijuana, most of it obtained illegally, according to Arcview. The legal cannabis market is expected to grow from $6.9 billion in 2016 to $21.6 billion by 2021, Arcview says.

Even though weed isn’t legal (yet) in Texas, Arcview is hosting a get-together for marijuana entrepreneurs and investors May 1-3 in Austin.

“The state of Texas is a huge opportunity for the cannabis industry, and Austin is a hub of economic and entrepreneurial spirit,” Troy Dayton, CEO of Arcview, tells CultureMap. “By bringing the Arcview Investor Forum to Austin, we are tapping into an exciting and established network of investors and entrepreneurs who can take advantage of one of the country’s fastest-growing industries.”

The forum will come a little over a week before the Texas Marijuana March, set for May 13 in Austin. Activists attend the annual event to press their case for legalizing marijuana in the Lone Star State.

This year, several bills are floating around the Texas Legislature that would reduce penalties for marijuana possession or decriminalize it altogether, or would pave the way for legalizing recreational and medical marijuana.

Central Texas lawmakers have a hand in some of the legislation. A constitutional amendment proposed by State Rep. Donna Howard, an Austin Democrat, would ask voters to legalize growing, selling, and using marijuana in Texas. State Rep. Jason Isaac, a Dripping Springs Republican, is one of the sponsors of legislation that would decriminalize possession of small amounts of marijuana.

As it stands now, a state law passed in 2015 allows doctors in Texas to prescribe low-strength medical marijuana to certain epilepsy patients. Under the state’s Compassionate Use Act, the Texas Department of Public Safety is supposed to license at least three medical marijuana dispensaries by September 1. The law allows epilepsy patients whose seizures can’t be eased with traditional medication to treat those seizures with a prescribed strain of marijuana that doesn’t make them high, according to The Cannabist, which reports on developments in the marijuana sector.

Heather Fazio, Texas political director for the Marijuana Policy Project, says legislation that would greatly expand the use of medical marijuana in Texas beyond epilepsy patients is one of her group’s priorities this year. The other priority is decriminalizing possession of small amounts of weed. 

Fazio’s organization says Texas’ 2015 legislative session “was groundbreaking — the state discussed marijuana policy reform like never before and passed what could become the foundation for a workable medical marijuana program. This year could be just as historic.”

The Marijuana Policy Project isn’t pushing legalization of recreational marijuana during this year’s session, Fazio says. “Texas just isn’t quite ready for that conversation yet at the Capitol,” she says.

A Texas Tribune/University of Texas poll conducted in February shows opposition to legalized marijuana is waning in Texas. The poll found that 83 percent of Texans now support legalizing marijuana for some uses, with 53 percent backing any type of use.

In a recent interview with business website Benzinga, Joel Milton, CEO of Denver-based Baker Technologies, which helps marijuana dispensaries gain customers, says he wouldn’t be shocked if marijuana reform “comes to Texas sooner than people might think.”

Texas “is known as a fairly conservative state,” Milton says. “However, there are a lot of people from Texas who are coming to our website poking around and interested in cannabis.”