In regards to penalties and how the state distinguishes between offenses, Texas drug offenses are divided into categories based on the type of drug and whether one is merely in possession of the drug, trafficking the drug, or manufacturing the drug. Possession being the most common and also least severe in the eyes of the law. Conversely, manufacturing is then the most severe and least common as far as the law is concerned.
Furthermore, the state also distinguishes between hard drugs (such as synthetic drugs) and drugs such as marijuana with the latter being the least severe. That is compared to say, manufacturing a synthetic drug with intent to distribute. Finally, as it relates to sentencing, there are other considerations to keep in mind that a judge is going to consider. Factors such as whether or not you’ve committed the same offense before, your previous criminal track record, your standing in the community…etc, all these things will come into play.
Thus there’s a few ways for us to breakup this page but, generally speaking, that’s the best way to think of the laws. Without specific details about any given case, the best we can do is say what the current laws are and what the minimum and maximum sentence is for any given offense.
Penalty Groups vs Schedule Drugs
As this is an education website that wants to make it clear how the state formulates laws, we’re going to use the terminology of the Health and Safety code for controlled substances. The state has two reoccurring categories: Schedule Drugs and Penalty Groups for controlled substances.
Then the state has six “Penalty Groups” that are as follows: 1, 1-A, 2, 2-A, 3, or 4. The “penalty groups” identify particular substances. For anyone that’s taken a Chemistry class at any level, you’ll know that chemical compounds can be created, mixed, added to..etc. This is why the substance abuse code is so complex and subject to constant change. New compounds can be created that never existed before and have a different impact (physically and psychologically) than any existing drug on the market.
Schedule Drugs have five categories (identified as Schedule I, Schedule II, Schedule III, Schedule IV and Schedule V). Schedule I drugs are the most severe and Schedule V are the least. Unlike the penalty groups, which we’ll get to momentarily, the commissioner is given the grounds for determining which “Schedule” a drug should be placed under.
Schedule I Drugs
Schedule I drugs are perhaps the most straightforward and certainly the most severe of all Texas drugs. For a substance to be classified by the commissioner as a Schedule I substance it must have a tremendously high potential for abuse and there be no accepted medical treatment for the substance. At least no, “accepted” medical treatment an area of great debate that is outside the scope of this article.
Schedule I drugs: no medical treatment and highly addictive.
Schedule II Drugs
With Schedule II drugs we are already getting into that unwanted complexity we referenced above. Schedule II drugs both have a high potential for abuse, has an accepted medical use in the United States, but the drug may lead to severe psychological dependence.
Schedule III Drugs
Now continuing to decrease the ‘severity’ of the drugs, schedule III goes a bit further with three more stipulations. A substance is considered Schedule III if the substance “has a potential for abuse less than that of the substances listed in Schedules I and II” AND “substance has currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States” AND the substance may (important may) “lead to moderate or low physical dependence or high psychological dependence.”
An important note here is that we’re seeing the relative dependence of the drug compared to other drugs play an important role in how the law is constructed.
Schedule IV Drugs
Same theme. Schedule IV drugs are less likely to abused than Schedule III drugs and have a medical treatment that is accepted by the medical community of the United States. Furthermore a Schedule III drug must lead to “more limited physical or psychological dependence” than drugs in Schedule IV.
Schedule V Drugs
Finally, and mercifully, Schedule V drugs has an even lower likelihood of abuse than those in the above category, an accepted medical treatment in U.S. and even more limited chance of physical or psychological abuse. than the other categories. At this point we are talking about level of gradations that those in the medical community might be hesitant to give. Nevertheless, as Texas law defines it, those are your five types of Schedule Drugs.
Penalty groups are the actual chemical compounds (drugs if you will) that are identified by the State. Unlike the Schedule drug classes above, we won’t walk through the entire compound list (as few will be familiar with the compound names) but a fill list and classification of the drugs in each penalty group are available here. Cannaboids (or Marijuana) are listed in Penalty Group 2-A in the unlikely event you were wondering.
Definition of Manufacturing
Given the importance of this definition, and the anxiety that might be produced by people who feel they may be accidentally manufacturing the substance, we’re going to spell out exactly what the official criminal code of Texas means by ‘manufacturing’, in terms of drug offenses. According to section 481.002 (sub-section 25) ‘manufacture’ means “means the production, preparation, propagation, compounding, conversion, or processing of a controlled substance other than marihuana, directly or indirectly by extraction from substances of natural origin, independently by means of chemical synthesis, or by a combination of extraction and chemical synthesis, and includes the packaging or repackaging of the substance or labeling or relabeling of its container.”
If that scares you, note that the term does not apply to anyone who is involved in “the preparation, compounding, packaging, or labeling of a controlled substance.” If you’re doing research or have been contracted to do research, just make sure that you’ve obtained samples legally and for god sakes keep receipts.
As one might expect, Texas marijuana laws are about as conservative as any other state. Despite recent attempts to legalize the practice, it remains illegal in the state outside of medical marijuana. Keep in mind this is an area of the law that is changing dramatically from month to month and (legislative) session to session. We’ll begin with possession laws and then work our way down.
In Texas, it is currently illegal to possess Marijuana with the only exception being medical marijuana. This is covered in Section 481.121 and requires that the offender “knowingly” possesses the drug. This is where the “this isn’t my jacket or my car” defense actually has merit.
If you’re caught possessing two ounces or less of marijuana you’ll be cited with a Class B misdemeanor. This is the least severe drug charge you can receive in the state of Texas. This carries with it a fine of up to $2,000 and up to 180 days in jail.
If you’re caught with an amount of Marijuana that is four ounces or less but more than two ounces you’re now in Class A Misdemeanor territory. For this you can receive a fine of up to $4,000 AND/OR be sentenced to jail for a period of no more than a year.
Crossing the line into felonies comes when the amount of Marijuana on your person is five pounds or less but more than four ounces (otherwise it would still be a misdemeanor). This offense is considered a State Felony which is the least severe of felony offenses. If you are caught with 50 pounds or less (but more than five pounds) you can be sentenced to a third degree felony which carries with it a maximum sentence of ten years but no less than two years.
Finally we get to the two most severe of punishments for Marijuana possession in the state of Texas. If you’re caught with more than 2,000 pounds of marijuana expect to be sentenced to anywhere between five years and 99 years but no less than five years.
Marijuana trafficking is considered when a “person knowingly or knowingly or intentionally delivers marihuana” in the state of Texas. The big question with Marijuana penalties is the amount that had one on their person at the time of arrest.
A fine of up to $2,000 (notice the ‘up to’. $2,000 is the maximum possible amount for a class B misdemeanor).
Sentenced to jail time for a period of up to 180 days in jail if the amount delivered is one-fourth ounce or less and the person committing the offense does not receive remuneration for the marijuana.
If the amount of marijuana delivered is one-fourth ounce or less and the person committing the offense receives remuneration for the marihuana then you can be fined $4,000 and sentenced to jail for up to a year.
If the amount delivered is five pounds or less but more than one-fourth ounce then the arrested individuals can be sentenced to anywhere between 180 days and two years.
If the amount of marijuana delivered is 50 pounds or less but more than five pounds then one can expect to spend between two and twenty years of jail time. This is considered a felony in the second degree.
Now the second most severe penalty one receive for marijuana trafficking, is a felony of the first degree. This occurs if one is delivering more than 50 pounds (but less than 2,000 pounds) of marijuana. This carries with it a minimum sentence of five years and a maximum sentence of 99 years in Texas.
Finally the Texas Department of Criminal Justice may sentence you to life or a period of 99 years (and no less than 10 years) if the amount of marijuana delivered is more than 2,000 pounds.
In Texas, the state is very aggressive about not allowing Cocaine in the state. Unlike Marijuana, where prosecution is unlikely if you have a small amount on your persons, in Texas possession of any amount of Cocaine is an immediate felony. If you’re caught with the substance, you can expect a minimum punishment of two years to life and a fine of anywhere between $10,000 and $250,000.
Less Than One Gram
If caught with less than one gram of Cocaine you’re in State Jail Felony territory which carries with a minimum sentence of 6 months and a maximum of two years in prison.
Between One and Four Grams
Punishments can include a fine of any amount up to $10,000 and include prison (not jail) sentence of up to ten years. This is what’s called a 3rd degree felony and is worse than a State Felony but not as bad as a second degree felony.
More Than Four Grams But Less Than 200
Now you’ve committed a second degree felony. In Texas, this comes with a punishment of up to twenty years in prison.
More Than 200 Grams but Less Than 400 Grams
This is a first degree felony but the State has written in a special exemption for Cocaine where 400 grams is only the second most severe penalty. This offense carries with it a minimum sentence 10 years in jail and a maximum jail time of 99 years. Additionally this carries a fine of up to $100,000.
More than 400 grams
The maximum punishment for Cocaine possession in Texas, the punishment is similar but adds 5 more years to the minimum jail time. This brings us to a minimum sentence of 15 years in prison, a maximum of 99 years and a fine of up to $250,000.
Juvenile Drug Laws
A subject more detailed in our section on minors, Texas typically operates on a no-tolerance policy when it comes to Juveniles and drugs.
If they are imprisoned, Texas Law makes clear that if a Juvenile is placed in confinement for a drug charge they “shall be separated by sight and sound from adults detained in the same building. Children and adults are separated by sight and sound only if they are unable to see each other and conversation between them is not possible.”