Is Weed Legal in Texas
Is Weed Legal in Texas 2022: Medical Marijuana and hemp are often indistinguishable by their appearance and smell because they both come from the cannabis plant. However, hemp is legal, and medical marijuana is not legal in Texas.
In 2019, Texas lawmakers legalized the use of some forms of the cannabis plant. Since then, medical marijuana prosecution cases around the state of Texas have been thrown into disarray.
A new Texas law sought to bring the state of Texas in line with a 2018 federal law that legalized hemp but not medical marijuana.
What the new laws mean for the people of Texas
Medical Marijuana and hemp are often indistinguishable by look or smell. The difference between marijuana and hemp is the amounts of the psychoactive compound THC or tetrahydrocannabinol that each contains.
Medical Marijuana is classified as a cannabis plant or its derivatives if the THC concentration is more than 0.3%. If the THC concentration is less than 0.3%, it is considered hemp.
Cannabidiol, or CBD, is a nonpsychoactive compound naturally found in cannabis. Researchers claim that CBD can alleviate conditions such as anxiety, depression, and insomnia.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has only approved the CBD drug to treat two rare kinds of epilepsy with the prescription drug Epidiolex.
What medical marijuana is legal right now?
Under Texas law, it is still illegal to use or possess recreational medical marijuana. Since hemp is considered different from marijuana, prosecutors and state crime labs have dropped hundreds of pending medical marijuana charges and have refused to pursue new marijuana cases because they don’t have the resources to detect the precise THC concentration in the marijuana. This has prevented them from having the evidence they need to prove in court if a cannabis substance is illegal.
According to the data from the Texas Office of Court Administration, medical marijuana prosecutions in Texas declined drastically by more than half in six months after the law was enacted.
Medical cannabis (cannabis with less than 0.5% THC concentration) is legal in Texas in very limited circumstances. The Texas Compassionate Use Act was signed into law in 2015, allowing people with epilepsy to access medical cannabis with less than 0.5% THC. In 2019, the list of qualifying conditions was expanded to include diseases such as multiple sclerosis, seizure disorders, autism, Parkinson’s disease and Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), terminal cancer, Huntington’s disease, Chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), and more.
In June 2021, the Compassionate Use Act expanded the list of qualifying medical conditions to include all cancer diagnoses and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The Act also raised the THC cap from 0.5% to 1%.
Is recreational marijuana prosecuted the same everywhere?
Eleven states and Washington, D.C., have legalized the use and possession of recreational medical marijuana. In those states, marijuana use and possession are still regulated. However, people using or in possession of recreational marijuana are not criminally or civilly punished under state law.
More than 10 other states in the United States have fully or partially decriminalized certain medical marijuana-related offenses. It is still illegal to use marijuana recreationally in many of these states but prosecutors do not press criminal charges. Instead, offenders only face civil penalties, which usually are payment of fines or attending drug education programs.
Recreation marijuana isn’t legal in Texas. In Texas, state law allows prosecutors to press criminal charges for offenders using medical marijuana for recreational purposes. Typically misdemeanors for small amounts are charged against recreational medical marijuana users. Offenders may be fined more than $1,000 and jail time.
How are Counties approaching it?
Many Texas prosecutors are dropping low-level marijuana possession charges and also refusing to pursue new marijuana charges.
Before the hemp law was passed, law enforcement agencies in Harris, Dallas, Bexar, and Nueces counties had already stopped arresting people found with small amounts of medical marijuana on a first offense. Instead, diversion programs to keep defendants out of jail or citations may be offered for people with a small amount of marijuana.
In June, the Texas Department of Public Safety ordered its officers not to arrest people but, instead, issue citations if possible in misdemeanor medical marijuana possession cases. However, misdemeanor medical marijuana possession cases still carry a penalty of up to a year in jail and a $4,000 fine.
The Austin City Council voted to end arrests and fines for possession of small amounts of marijuana. They also voted to ban spending city funds on testing. The police chief, however, said he would still issue tickets or arrest people.
Under the new city resolution, possessing small amounts of medical marijuana will come with no penalty. However, marijuana possession cases are still being prosecuted in some cities in Texas.
To determine the THC concentration of medical marijuana, local prosecutors require testing by private labs. Testing can cost hundreds of dollars and most counties can’t afford a private lab. Counties that can’t afford a private lab are sending samples of marijuana to DPS for testing or either rejecting or postponing cases.
Are there efforts to legalize marijuana in Texas?
A bill was introduced which would have prevented police from arresting people for possessing an ounce of medical marijuana or less. The bill also made the possession of an ounce of medical marijuana or less a Class C misdemeanor carrying a maximum $500 fine. The bill passed the House on a 103-42 vote.
It is still a crime in Texas to possess marijuana (over 0.3% THC by weight) not prescribed by a registered marijuana doctor for an approved condition. While the passage of Texas House Bill 3703 in 2019 did expand and improve access to medical marijuana for qualified patients, the bill did not change any state regulations around the recreational use of marijuana.