Is marijuana legal in Texas? – Back in the year 2019, the state of Texas decriminalized some forms of the cannabis plant; however, not all forms of it received this treatment. Because of this, there are some marijuana prosecution cases in the state that have been thrown into states of confusion. Depending on the specific area in which you currently reside, enforcing these laws can vary.
In fact, a new state law was designed to bring Texas in accordance with a 2018 federal law that is designed to legalize hemp while, at the same time, keeping marijuana illegal.
While both marijuana and hemp are essentially indistinguishable without laboratory testing, since they come from the same plant, the biggest difference boils down to the amount of THC they contain. Marijuana is classified as being a cannabis plant with a concentration of THC of more than 0.3%. If the percentage amount is less than this, it is legally classified as hemp.
Alternatively, CBD or cannabidiol, is defined as a nonpsychoactive compound of cannabis and is legally permitted to be sold by business throughout Texas as long as the total THC concentration is less than 0.3%. While the United States Food and Drug Administration does not recognize any of the long-standing claims made by supporters, those who do support the substance claim it alleviates conditions such as insomnia, anxiety, depression, and more. On the other hand, the agency has approved the drug to treat only two rare kinds of epilepsy via Epidiolex, a prescription drug.
Under Texas state law, it remains illegal to either possess or use marijuana, which has been the case since 1931, with recreational marijuana users able to be charged with fines of more than $1,000 and possible jail time. The only thing that has changed since last year is the fact that hemp is now considered to be different from marijuana. Ever since the change in the law, prosecutors have dropped hundreds of pending charges involving marijuana. Furthermore, many prosecutors have also declined to pursue any new charges due to not having the necessary resources in order to detect the precise THC content that is present in a substance – making it very difficult to prove that a cannabis substance is actually marijuana.
According to Governor Greg Abbott and multiple other Texas state officials, the bill itself doesn’t decriminalize marijuana, nor do prosecutors fully understand the new law. Despite this, prosecutions involving marijuana in the state decreased by over 50% in the six month following the enactment of the law.
In terms of medical cannabis, this substance is legal in the state of Texas; however, it is legal only under extremely limited circumstances. Back in 2015, Governor Abbott signed the Texas Compassionate Use Act, which allows residents with epilepsy to have access to cannabis oil with less than 0.5% THC. Last year, Governor Abbott signed House Bill 3703, which expanded the list of qualifying conditions to include the following:
Under the new state law, Texas residents no longer have to worry about having to face penalties for possessing hemp and derivatives such as CBD. While industry officials are unaware of the exact number of new businesses that are currently selling CBD due to the Texas Department of State Health Services not yet implementing licensing requirements, the general belief is that they have seen an uptick.
Multiple Texas prosecutors from both major parties have taken steps to drop low-level charges involving marijuana possession, as well as declining to pursue new ones altogether. Prior to the new law being passed, law enforcement agencies in four counties (Harris, Dallas, Bexar, and Nueces) ceased arresting those who had been found with small amounts of the substance on a first offense. They instead offered diversion programs in order to prevent offenders from going to jail, as well as issuing citations for those found to be in possession of a misdemeanor amount of the substance. Furthermore, back in June, the Texas Department of Public Safety ordered officers to not arrest anyone, but to instead issue citations for any misdemeanor marijuana possession cases. El Paso, in the meantime, is considering the enactment of the “cite-and-release” policy.
Despite all of this, there remain efforts to legalize marijuana in the state of Texas. Democratic State Representative Joe Moody introduced House Bill 63 last year, which would have stopped law enforcement officers from arresting individuals who were found to be in possession of one ounce of marijuana or less, as well as officially making it a Class C misdemeanor, thereby carrying a maximum find of $500. The bill passed the House with a vote of 103-42. Governor Abbott, meanwhile, stated that he was open to reducing penalties for all low-level marijuana possessions; however, the Texas Senate effectively killed the bill.
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