Unfortunately for people of all ages, Texas’ laws on Marijuana are complex and dynamic as the world around the Lone Star state continues to change its opinions on marijuana. Though recent attempts to prevent Marijuana from becoming a criminalized offense have shown promise, it appears that as we stand now (June, 2021) marijuana is still illegal in all parts of Texas.
Texas Marijuana Law As It Is Now
In the strictest terms, Marijuana is illegal in Texas. Very illegal by the book. It is among the strictest in terms of its position and stance on Marijuana and if caught, things could be bad depending on variables such as the consistency of the substance, the amount of weed on ones person, and your proximity to minors and related drugs. However, issues come into play with actual enforcement (we’ll get to that shortly), but putting it briefly: as of June 2021, marijuana is illegal in all Texas. CBD is legal.
Will You Be Caught? Marijuana By The Numbers
Here is where the complexity of the situation deepens. Now that CBD is finally legal in the great state of Texas, things have gotten even more complicated. CBD is essentially marijuana without the active THC ingredient or “Marijuana without the fun.” However there is always some degree of residue of THC leftover from the Marijuana extract. Thus, potentially, the most important thing to hear is that if you have less than once it’s going to be exceedingly difficult to be arrested. Current bills, which we’ll get to in subsequent sections, are aiming to decriminalize possession of the drug if the person is carrying less than an ounce.
Therefore the discussion surrounding marijuana has become when is it enough to arrest?
In 2019,the number of arrests for marijuana was 45,131 people including adults and juveniles. Of those, 41,540 were adults and 3,591 were juveniles. The number of people that were arrested for manufacturing marijuana was, obviously, much lower with 1,890. 1,715 of which were adults and 175 being juveniles.
It’s very difficult to know what percentage of users are being caught (it’s not something people self report), however as this excellent article by the Texas Observer points out, Texas has (accidentally) begun the process of decriminalizing the substance.
Marijuana Arrest Rates By Race and Ethnicity
Of the total Texans arrested for Marijuana in 2019, 13,663 were classified as black or African American. That is 28.89% of all arrests in a state that is 11.8% black. While this does represent a disproportionate number of African Americans being incarcerated compared to the general population, it is not as overtly biased compared to both other states and the history of law enforcement in the U.S.
In Texas, medicinal marijuana is legal but there’s quite a bit of red tape. Not all forms of marijuana are legal and the THC that is legal. It was Senate Bill 339 that finally made the consumption of “low-THC cannabis” (what the bill refers to it as) legal in Texas but only for patients with certain conditions. Furthermore access to medical marijuana can only be prescribed by physicians.
There are two major stipulations about how much THC content can be prescribed and those are covered in Section 1669.001 of the bill (sub-sections A and B). The THC prescribed can only be at most 0.5 of the Tetrahydrocannabinols and not less than 10 percent of the weight of the Cannabidiol.
Conditions for which a doctor can prescribe THC include epilepsy, seizure related disporder, autism, terminal cancer and neurodegenerative diseases that are incurable (an interesting distinction as the THC is presumably for pain relief). For a full list and explanation of current medical marijuana laws visit the government’s website on the issue.
Recent Changes To Marijuana Laws
While other states have opened up the rules to be more accommodating of weed, the lone star state is, in many ways, not so much on their own anymore. In 2021, multiple bills were introduced, amended or applied regarding marijuana law changes and updates. Below we highlight some of the most talked about bills but be sure to bookmark this page for future updates. When the next session begins, we’ll update this section with the new laws (or update existing laws in purgatory) in this section.
87(R) HB 3174 – Introduced Version: amends the hiring process so that peace officer positions cannot be automatically disqualified because of a history with using marijuana or possession. That doesn’t mean that agencies are prevented from factoring it in, but it does prevent them from excluding a candidate solely for that reason.
Outcome: The bill failed in the first stage of the seven step process to become a law.
87(R) H.B. 567: The premise of the bill is that marijuana is not a sufficient reason, on its own, to remove a child from parental custody. The authors write “Child Protective Services would need to intervene in a home to remove a child for safety reasons would constitute an emergency. Therefore, non-emergency removals are unnecessary.”
Outcome: This bill was filed on 11/13/2020. Passed the house committee on March 19, 2021. Then the bill went to the senate committee, which it passed. Leading to it being voted on by the senate, which it also passed on April 28, 2021. The governor had until 5/15/2021 to sign the bill, he didn’t, but the bill became a law nonetheless. Effective date: September 1, 2021.
87(R) HB 3772: A significant reduction in penalties for possession of Marijuana and concentrates.
Excerpt: As the authors note the bill “would reduce the criminal penalty for possession of one ounce or less of marijuana, data provided by the Department of Public Safety (DPS) does not isolate convictions for possession of less than one ounce of marijuana.” Essentially, as noted above the problem with the current marijuana enforcement procedure is that its difficult to detect small amounts of cannabis with current technology.
Outcome: This bill was filed on 3/11/2021 and successfully made it out of the house committee on 5/6/2021, an important stage for the passing of any bill. However the bill failed to be voted on before the session ended and will have to resume its quest to become a law when the session resumes.
87(R) HB 2593: A bill that would add to the complexity of an already complex system but would overtly make it more fair than the current system. Users would be split into a separate penalty group (technically group 2-B). The supporters argue “Currently, while penalties for possessing marijuana begin with a misdemeanor for small amounts, penalties for possessing THC in other forms begin at a felony level, determined by the weight of the item.”
Conversely, the opposition to this bill is the same hardline conservative stance against most drug reform: Texas should not seek to lower penalties for drug possession, as this could encourage illegal drug use and could make it more difficult to enforce drug laws.
Outcome: This bill was filed by Moody on 3/2/2021. Bill successfully reported out of the house committee and passed the house. The bill ran through the senate committee on 5/20/2021 and successfully passed the senate the following day. The session ended before the Governor took action and thus will live to fight another day in the next session.
History of Cannabis Laws In Texas
An important point we’ll continue to emphasize is that we often forget that everything is legal until a bill or court ruling deems it to be illegal (or legal again).
Therefore marijuana first became illegal in 1931, imposing sentences up to life imprisonment. This would be the same year that Illinois would outright ban the substance entirely. Fun fact, Massachusetts was actually the first state to regulate the drug, requiring a prescription for it’s purchase and consumption. Other states such as California, Maine, Wyoming, and Indiana would follow suit in 1913.
The Slow Path To Decriminalization
As we’ve discussed, and as Texans must know, Texas slowly began the decriminalization process in 1973 when they altered the law to make four ounces or less a misdemeanor.
On May 10, 1995, the Texas Legislature would propose the following bill that reclassified possession or distribution of Marijuana from a third degree felony to a second degree felony or as a first degree felony if shown that the following happened:
(1) in, on, or within 1,000 feet of a school or its property;
(2) in, on, or within 300 feet of a public or private youth center, public swimming pool, or video arcade.
However if one were to look at the Google Trends graph for the search Marijuana in Texas, you’ll notice a tremendous peak in March, 2004. That was the year that while states such as Vermont and and Montana legalized medical marijuana, Texas went a completely different direction amidst a marijuana pandemic, bill 79(R) HB 1805, stated that “more teens are in treatment for using marijuana than for alcohol or all other illegal drugs combined.”