State Sen. Roland Gutierrez (right) tours a marijuana products facility in Colorado in his new, self-financed documentary.
Last year, State Sen. Roland Gutierrez of San Antonio made marijuana legalization a centerpiece of the campaign that won him his seat in the Texas Lege's upper chamber.
And he's not letting go of the issue.
On Tuesday — which happens to fall on the 4/20 pot holiday — the Democrat released a self-financed documentary, Legalize Texas: Making the Case for Cannabis, that's essentially a 40-minute sales pitch for lawmakers to create a legal market for pot in Texas.
The film, available online, includes visits with medical marijuana users, entrepreneurs and lawmakers in Canada and Colorado, along with Texas veterans who used weed to kick prescription opioids.
Its release comes as Gutierrez pushes for Senate Bill 140, a measure he authored that would legalize recreational pot use in the state.
"This is a call to action to support our bill, but it's also bigger than that," Gutierrez told the Current. "I wanted to show in the documentary that these are normal folks. It's not Cheech and Chong or your neighbor growing pot in their basement."
Gutierrez said he realizes the clock is ticking on the prospect of passing his bill now that the session has entered the mad scramble of its final six weeks.
But, he added, that if the Republican-controlled Lege isn't yet willing to support recreational use, lawmakers should at least back a bill by fellow San Antonio Democrat State Sen. José Menéndez that would expand medical use.
Although Texas currently has a compassionate use program, it is among the most restrictive in the nation, and as of January, fewer than 4,000 people were qualified for legal consumption.
Gutierrez said he worries that the longer the state waits to legalize, the more economic opportunity it squanders. After Oklahoma recently legalized medical use, it's clear the tide is turning. The question, he said, is whether Texas wants to lose jobs and revenue to neighboring states as they develop pot industries.
"We're not even arresting people for it anymore in Texas," Gutierrez said. "Why don't we just legalize it, regulate it, tax it and let it create economic opportunity in Texas?"