Is Cannabis Legal in Texas?
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Cannabis in Texas is illegal for recreational use, however, some cities have decriminalized it, such as Austin. In Sept 2021, legislation signed by Governor Abbott, went into effect: HB 1535. This marijuana legislation in Texas expands medical conditions that allow for legal Texas cannabis use.
Qualifying conditions include:
- A seizure disorder
- Multiple sclerosis
- Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis
- Terminal Cancer
- An incurable neurodegenerative disease
- Post-traumatic stress disorder
- A Medical condition approved for a research program under Subchapter F, Chapter 487, Health and Safety Code, and for which the patient is receiving treatment under that program.
As of 2021, cannabis- marijuana is legal in 18 states, and Washington D.C (D.C is a district not a state). In the southern region of the United States, the state of Virginia is the only state that has legalized cannabis- marijuana for recreational consumption. But even there, legalization comes with restrictions like- no retail sales, just home grow.
In Texas, legal marijuana comes with restrictions such as:
- Medical use is allowed only in the form of low-THC cannabis oil, less than 1% THC with a doctor’s approval and less than 0.3% THC without.
This is actually a win for Texans because prior to the 1% THC currently in place and just updated in 2021, THC was only allowed up to 5%. In Texas, possession of up to two ounces is a class B misdemeanor, punishable by up to 180 days in prison and/or a fine of up to $2000.
Texas War on Cannabis Marijuana
The reality of cannabis marijuana laws in Texas, as it relates to the people goes a little something like this:
- In 2018, marijuana arrests made up 44% of all drug arrests in the state.
- Reports show that in 2018, Black people were 2.62 times more likely than white people to get arrested for marijuana possession.
- In 2014, Texas arrests for marijuana possession was: 66,060, in 2015 the arrests dropped to: 59,758, and in 2016 the arrests went back up to: 63,599.
The Texas Orator reported that The American Civil Liberties Union of Texas says:“Between 1980 and 2004, the population of Texas’ 94 prisons and 20 state jails increased by 556 percent, and corrections spending increased by 1,600 percent.”
Texas Orator points out that: “Texas has overfilled its prisons with nonviolent people oftentimes in trouble merely for drug possession. Texas has one of the highest incarceration rates in the country.” We should note that Texas shares the longest border with Mexico, and that border is documented as the border with the highest trafficked illegal drugs.
Texas Trends: Cannabis- Marijuana Arrests vs Sentencing
It appears that arrests in Texas may be going down as they relate to marijuana. The Texas Tribune reports that: “Several Texas prosecutors and law enforcement agencies have already stopped arresting and prosecuting people found with small amounts of marijuana on their first offense.”
House Bill 99 is the hope that marijuana possession would no longer be an arrestable offense; this is Rep. Steve Roth’s attempt to address the racial disparity in Texas related to marijuana arrests. House Bill 99 would get rid of arrests and driver’s license suspensions for marijuana possession only punishable by a fine.
Because of federally legal hemp/ CBD, marijuana arrests have reportedly gone down as follows:
- In 2019, the Texas Department of Public Safety reported more than 45,000 arrests for possession of marijuana — a decrease from the nearly 63,000 reported arrests in 2018.
- In July of 2019, the department issued a memo instructing DPS officers to issue citations, rather than make arrests, for possession of less than 4 ounces of marijuana.
It appears that arrests in Texas for marijuana, lead to high convictions, so it’s a good thing that changes and what leads to arrests are happening. According to KRWG Public Media, 97% of marijuana convictions are due to possession.
The State of Texas Drug Use Patterns and Trends for 2019 shows that: Methamphetamine is the top drug threat reported by the three DEA Field Divisions that cover Texas.
Because of federal legalization, marijuana is still considered a schedule 1 “drug”. Studies are showing that marijuana can prevent opioid addiction. In an article published on the Recovery Village, it states:
“Prescribed marijuana can help prevent an opioid addiction from developing in the first place. Many addicts begin their addiction with a prescription for painkillers, and medical marijuana might be a suitable and safer substitute.”