Houston Zoning Laws Are Half-Baked
When it comes to marijuana in Texas, many expect Austin to be the cannabis capital of the Lone Star State. After all, Austin has more music venues per capita than any other city in the nation and receives the occasional visit from American music royalty, like his highness, Willie Nelson. However, when it comes down to it, it’ll likely be Houston — perhaps the state’s most enigmatic city — that will be most impacted by legalization.
Texas and Weed Have a Tumultuous Past
Over the course of United States history, marijuana has been legal longer than it has been illegal. In fact, the United States government didn’t really begin cracking down on marijuana until the early 1900s when an incident in El Paso, during which a man killed a police officer in a fit of violent rage, caught the attention of lawmakers. Marijuana use was blamed for the violent behavior and legislation criminalizing the substance was passed, much to the dismay of local doctors.
Popular among a new wave of Mexican immigrants, many scholars agree that the illegalization of cannabis was more of a manifestation of xenophobia, racism, and lack of understanding rather than a decision based on thorough scientific research. Still, it became powerful fear fodder for politicians and media outlets alike, forming attitudes and laws towards the substance that still persist today.
Where Texas and Weed Stand Today
As it sits, the recreational use of cannabis is illegal in Texas. Medical cannabis, however, is legal in Texas in very limited scenarios. In 2015, Gov. Abbott signed the Texas Compassionate Use Act into law, allowing people with conditions like epilepsy to access cannabis oil. Then, in 2019, the governor signed House Bill 3703, which expanded the list of qualifying conditions like ALS to use “low-THC” cannabis oil, meaning it contains 0.5% or less THC. Due to newly introduced legislation, though, Texas could legalize marijuana sooner than many realize.
How Legalization Will Affect Houston Real Estate
According to the “Marijuana and Real Estate: A Budding Issue” report published by the National Association of REALTORS®, the legalization of marijuana can have a positive effect on both residential and commercial markets.
“From property owners to manufacturers to those who simply want to engage for leisure – it all touches real estate in some form,” said Dr. Jessica Lautz, Vice President of Demographics and Behavioral Insights for the National Association of REALTORS®.
If legalized, cannabis could send the demand for Houston real estate even higher. The industry already supports roughly 340,000 jobs nationwide. Houston’s business-friendly environment would add significantly to that figure, which would translate into more homebuyers and investors.
But Houston’s real appeal or drawback, depending on how you look at it, is its lackadaisical zoning laws. Per the section on Development Regulations on the city of Houston’s website, “The City of Houston does not have zoning, but development is governed by ordinance codes that address how property can be subdivided. The City codes do not address land use.” Houston is the largest city in America to not have zoning laws, which lends itself to some pretty odd sights. That might deter some homeowners from purchasing homes in certain areas, but it makes commercial growing operations immensely easier, increasing the overall desirability of Houston real estate.
Essentially, canna-business people can build industrial grow houses, processing facilities, and retail outlets more easily while maintaining access to an educated, talented, and diverse workforce - which is why Houston will likely become the epicenter of legal weed in Texas.
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