Texas has loosened the severity of some marijuana laws, especially hemp. But its recreational use is still illegal. This has caused confusion and possibly inconsistent enforcement.
Law in Flux
Beginning in 1931 and continuing to the present, individuals in Texas can still face drug charges for the recreational use of marijuana. But, along with other earlier changes, Texas amended its laws in 2019 to legalize only some forms of cannabis such as hemp and derivatives such as cannabidiol.
Marijuana and hemp are very similar by look or smell because they come from the cannabis plant. However, these substances contain different amounts of the psychoactive compound, tetrahydrocannabinol.
Now, marijuana is classified as a cannabis plant if it or its derivatives has a THC concentration over 0.3%. The substance is classified as hemp if the substance has less THC.
CBD is the nonpsychoactive compound in cannabis. Businesses in the state may sell it if the THC concentrate is below 0.3%. Although the U.S. Food and Drug Administration does not support these claims, proponents argue that these products can address conditions such as anxiety, depression, and insomnia. The FDA approved this drug through the prescription drug Epidolex, for treatment of two rare forms of Epilepsy.
Texas also has limited exceptions for medical cannabis. The 2015 Texas Compassionate Use Act allows individuals with epilepsy to have access to cannabis oil with less than 0.5% THC.
HB 2703, passed in 2019, added conditions such as multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis to the list of qualifying conditions for medical cannabis.
Texas and many of its cities had to develop regulations and training for law enforcement to avoid erroneous arrests. Also, many local prosecutors dropped low-level marijuana charges and are not pursuing new offenses.
Harris, Dallas, Bexar, and Nueces Counties stopped arresting people possessing small amounts of marijuana for a first offense. Drug diversion programs and small fines were imposed instead.
The Texas Department of Public Safety ordered its officers to issue citations instead of making arrests, if possible, in misdemeanor marijuana cases, which are still punishable by up to one year of imprisonment and a $4,000 fine.
Local prosecutors, however, still possess the discretion to prosecute possession cases and serious penalties may be imposed. The suburb of Plano, for example, approved funds for its police department to test substances in misdemeanor marijuana cases.
This indicates that drug enforcement may be inequitable. Legal representation can help assure that an individual’s’ s rights are protected.