How Texas Marijuana Law Has Evolved Over the Years

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Texas marijuana laws have been some of the most conservative in the US. The state made medical marijuana legal in 2015. Even after legalizing, though, the list of qualifying diseases for using medical marijuana remains short. Recreational marijuana is still illegal in the state.

Let’s take a detailed look at the marijuana laws in Texas.

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Timeline of cannabis laws in Texas

Texas banned possession of any amount of cannabis in 1931. Texas had one of the most severe marijuana laws in the country at the time. Until 1973, cannabis remained a narcotic drug, and possessing even a small amount could result in a prison sentence. However, House Bill 447 was approved in 1973 to significantly reduce penalties. After the new bill, the punishment for holding two ounces of cannabis was reduced to a $1,000 fine and up to a 180-day prison sentence. In 2007, Governor Rick Perry signed House Bill 2391 to allow for a release on a citation rather than an arrest for holding up to four ounces of cannabis.

In 2015, Governor Greg Abbott signed Senate Bill 339 to allow the use of medical marijuana for epilepsy patients. Representative David Simpson also introduced a bill to legalize adult-use cannabis, but it didn’t receive the required support.

In 2019, the House of Representatives approved House Bill 63 to further reduce penalties for holding one ounce to a $500 fine. In addition, Abbott legalized industrial hemp cultivation by signing House Bill 1325. He also signed a bill to expand the qualifying conditions for using medical marijuana.

Medical marijuana laws in Texas

As mentioned, Texas made cannabis legal for medical use in 2015. Abbott approved the Texas Compassionate Use Act (Senate Bill 339) to allow epilepsy patients to use cannabis medicines with less than 0.5% THC. The bill received 83% support in the Senate and 73% support in the House. Patients have to go through a lengthy process to get a prescription for medical marijuana.

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Prescription process

Physicians have to be registered with the Compassionate Use Registry to prescribe marijuana to their patients. A physician will determine whether the risk of cannabis is reasonable for the potential benefit and prescribe cannabis medicine. However, patients need a second physician to confirm the prescription given by the first one.

Physicians also have to report that other drugs were not effective in treating the patient’s disorder. The patient will be allowed to use marijuana legally only when it’s certified that other medicines haven’t helped. Patients should have tried a minimum of two antiepileptic drugs before they can be prescribed marijuana.

Patients also need to be residents of the state to be considered.

Qualifying medical conditions

When the bill to legalize medical marijuana passed in 2015, it was limited to epilepsy patients. However, Abbott signed a bill to extend the list of qualifying conditions. The new bill added conditions such as terminal cancer, multiple sclerosis, seizure disorders, Alzheimer’s disease, autism, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, Huntington’s disease, and Parkinson’s disease.

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Dispensaries

When the bill passed, the Department of Public Safety was required to provide licenses to set up three dispensaries by September 2017. However, the department missed the timeline by a few months. It provided licenses for Cansortium Texas, Compassionate Cultivation, and Surterra Texas. Recently, state regulators also had plans to increase the number of dispensaries in the state. They initially announced plans to accept applications during the period from October 1, 2019, to November 1, 2019. However, the state stopped accepting applications within a week without any warning.

Products

The Compassionate Use Act allows stores to sell only low-THC cannabis products that contain no more than 0.5% THC and no less than 10% CBD. Dispensaries can sell medical cannabis only in the form of cannabidiol oil. Only licensed dispensaries are allowed to grow cannabis, and it’s necessarily processed into low-THC cannabis oil.

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Punishment for marijuana possession

  • Up to two ounces: Class B misdemeanor. Penalties for this offense can go up to 180 days in prison, up to a $2,000 fine, or both.
  • Two ounces to four ounces: Class A misdemeanor. Penalties for this offense can go up to one year in jail, a $4,000 fine, or both.
  • More than four ounces: State jail felony. Penalties for this offense can go up to two years in jail, a $10,000 fine, or both.
  • Five pounds to 50 pounds: Third-degree felony. Penalties for this offense can go up to ten years in jail, a $10,000 fine, or both.
  • 50 pounds to 2,000 pounds: Second-degree felony. Penalties for this offense can go up to 20 years in jail, a $10,000 fine, or both.
  • More than 2,000 pounds: First-degree felony. Penalties for this offense will be at least five years in prison and can go up to 99 years and up to a $50,000 fine.

Punishment for selling marijuana

  • Gifting up to one-quarter of an ounce: Class B misdemeanor. Penalties for this offense can go up to 180 days in prison, up a $2,000 fine, or both.
  • Selling up to one-quarter of an ounce: Class A misdemeanor. Penalties for this offense can go up to one year in jail, a $4,000 fine, or both.
  • One-quarter of an ounce to five pounds: State jail felony. Penalties for this offense can go up to two years in jail, a $10,000 fine, or both.
  • Five pounds to 50 pounds: Second-degree felony. Penalties for this offense can go up to 20 years in jail, a $10,000 fine, or both.
  • 50 pounds to 2,000 pounds: First-degree felony. Penalties for this offense will be at least five years in prison and may go up to 99 years and up to a $50,000 fine.
  • More than 2,000 pounds: Penalties for this offense will be at least ten years in prison and may go up to 99 years and up to a $100,000 fine.
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Failed recreational cannabis legalization (2015)

Former State Representative David Simpson wanted to legalize adult-use cannabis in the state. He proposed House Bill 2165 in 2015. He took a religious stance on the case, which gained a majority vote in the House Criminal Jurisprudence Committee. However, the bill didn’t receive the required support to be presented in the House.

Simpson argued for his House Bill 2165, “I don’t believe that when God made marijuana, he made a mistake that government needs to fix.”

Recreational cannabis legalization initiative (2021)

Current State Representative Roland Gutierrez released his REAL Cannabis Legalization Act recently. He released this bill ahead of the 2021 session to gain support from lawmakers. Gutierrez plans to grow and manufacture cannabis products in the state. As per the plan, only adults at least 21 years old can use or purchase recreational marijuana. Gutierrez plans to establish a three-tier system like in the liquor industry, with producers, retail channels, and consumers.

As cannabis products would be grown in the state, it would open a new market for farmers. The bill would also allow individuals to grow up to 12 cannabis plants for personal use. Gutierrez believes that tax proceeds from marijuana can be used to offset the forecast 2021 education funding shortfall. The proceeds can also be used for border security, local law enforcement, and school funding. The majority of Texans are also supportive of legalizing recreational marijuana.

Gutierrez said, “Every state that has done this has seen a reduction in opioid deaths, A reduction in teenage usage. We allow cities to regulate the delivery method, things like guaranteeing that people can’t smoke outside, but they can smoke in their own homes all they want.”

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