Facing a $4.6 billion deficit because of the pandemic, Texas lawmakers proposed measures to legalize and tax recreational marijuana use. But passage of these measures appears slim and recreational users will likely still face the risk of criminal drug charges.
Fifteen other states legalized recreational cannabis use. Voters in four of these states approved legalization measures this month.
But Texas still has some of the most restrictive laws in the nation. Possessing any amount of marijuana in Texas is a class B misdemeanor punishable by up to six months imprisonment and a fine up to $2,000. Possession of over two ounces is punishable by up to one year of imprisonment. Possession of over four ounces is a felony.
Possession of any amount of marijuana concentrate, including vape pens containing over 0.3 percent THC, is a felony that is punishable by six months to two years imprisonment.
There are limited exceptions for medical cannabis. People with epilepsy, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, Lou Gehrig’s disease and other specific conditions may access cannabis oil with very low THC levels under the 2015 Compassionate Use Act that was amended in 2019.
Marijuana arrests and prosecutions dropped in the state. This is mostly attributed to a 2019 law that legalized hemp which complicated criminal prosecutions. Many cities opted not to prosecute small possession cases.
Texas law enforcement made over 45,000 arrests for possession of marijuana. This was a significant drop from the 63,000 arrests in 2018 before hemp legalization. African Americans were 2.6 times more likely to be arrested for the suspicion of marijuana possession in 2018, according to the American Civil Liberties Union.
The Senate and House Bills would legalize the possession of up to 2.5 ounces of cannabis for anyone over 21. The limit would be 1.5 grams for concentrates. Individuals could also keep up to 12 cannabis plants in their homes. The state’s department of licensing and regulation would regulate marijuana’s manufacture and sale.
The house bill would divert most of the tax revenue, estimated to be $1.1 billion yearly, to teacher pensions and salaries along with money for cities and counties. The senate proposal would send most of the revenue to school districts with some set aside for local law enforcement and border security.
The small number of legalization measures introduced in recent years received little attention from lawmakers. Less controversial measures, such as reducing penalties for marijuana possession, made no progress. Conservative leadership in the Senate appear to oppose any reforms as they have in the past.
Arrest for marijuana possession and other drug crimes still have serious consequences. An attorney can help you protect your rights.