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Will Texas Legalize Weed in 2021?

Is marijuana legal in Austin? This is a question that local attorneys hear often these days because there is so much reform happening with regard to marijuana possession and use in Texas. The answer isn’t straightforward. Technically, possession of any amount of marijuana is illegal in Austin, as it is across the entire state. But Texas does not consider marijuana to be a controlled substance and it has been decriminalized in Austin.

The thing to remember is that there is a difference between decriminalization and legalization. Decriminalization means that the local law enforcement agencies in Austin have chosen not to enforce certain laws relating to marijuana possession and use. Legalization means that marijuana can be legally bought and sold within a locality—this is not the case in Austin. Local governance is key in what this means specifically to Austin residents.

Several policies have been in place in the Texas capitol for some time, allowing law enforcement officials to do things like issue tickets instead of making arrests of people in possession of small amounts of marijuana. But there have been even more recent changes in policy at the Austin Police Department. Officials have agreed to only seize marijuana and write a report without charging the person found to be in possession of the drug. (Note that if you are caught selling marijuana in Travis County, you will still face criminal charges.)

“APD will no longer cite or arrest individuals with sufficient identification for Class A or Class B misdemeanor ‘possession of marijuana’ offenses, unless there is an immediate threat to a person’s safety or doing so as part of the investigation of a high priority, felony-level narcotics case or the investigation of a violent felony,” police Chief Brian Manely wrote in a memo to the Austin mayor and City Council.

These policies do not apply to certain other products derived from the marijuana plant, because not all of them contain an illegal amount of THC, the chemical that produces a “high” in marijuana users. For instance, hemp-derived CBD is legal across Texas and can be bought and sold without penalty. This is because the governor of Texas enacted a law in 2019 that states that products derived from the hemp portion of the cannabis plant (rather than the marijuana, or cannabis, portion) are legal when they have less than a 0.3% concentration of THC. Most products derived from the hemp portion qualify.

The laws relating to marijuana possession and use are still in flux across the United States, including in Texas, and are confusing because of it. Fighting drug charges requires an in-depth understanding of these laws and knowledge of how to navigate the legal system in such cases. If you are worried about being charged for a marijuana-related offense in Austin or elsewhere in Travis County, your best course of action is to seek legal assistance from a qualified attorney. Jarvis, Garcia, & Erskine Law, based in Austin, Texas, expertly handles many different cases, including drug-related cases. Contact the competent team of lawyers at Jarvis, Garcia, & Erskine Law to help you today.