Will Texas Relax Its Marijuana Possession Laws?

| Aug 4, 2018 |

During their summer conventions, both Republicans and Democrats in the Lone Star State approved platforms which would do just that.

GOP delegates approved provisions calling for the decriminalization of marijuana and the expansion of medical marijuana. The proposal endorsed reducing the penalty for possession of under an ounce to a fine only, and also adding more conditions to the current list. Right now, Texans may only purchase medical marijuana for certain types of epilepsy, and so it’s very difficult to find medical dispensaries. Democrats went even further, adding a legalization plank to their platform less than two weeks later.

During the 2017 regular session, El Paso Democrat Joe Moody introduced a marijuana decriminalization bill, but time expired before the bill made it to a floor vote.

Marijuana Laws in Texas

The Lone Star State has some of the toughest marijuana laws anywhere. As mentioned, Texas has only a very tiny medical exception in an era where medical marijuana laws are usually quite broad, even in red states like Oklahoma and Louisiana.

Possession of up to two ounces is a Class B misdemeanor. That means a maximum six months in jail and $2,000 fine. First-time offenders usually get some kind of deferred prosecution arrangement, but that’s by no means a sure thing. Two ounces of marijuana is about fifty rolled joints or a hundred dime bags, so that’s quite a stash.

But the other end of the law is what gets most people. Even if there’s not much more than marijuana residue in the joint, it’s still a Class B misdemeanor. Plus, the penalties escalate quickly. Four ounces is a felony with a mandatory six-month prison sentence.

When it comes to marijuana concentrates, like edibles, the penalty is almost through the roof. A crumb of a marijuana brownie is a state jail felony; possession of greater than one ounce is a 10-year felony.

Possession v Sale or Distribution

Like the possession laws, the distribution penalties escalate along with the amount. In addition to the amount, prosecutors often rely on circumstantial evidence to upgrade charges from simple possession to distribution or sale. When they review the offense report, they look for items like:

· Cash,

· Baggies,

· Scales, and

· Firearms.

In their celebratory press conferences, law enforcement officers love to parade all the things they captured in a “drug raid” like they were all in the same room. But very often, that’s not the case. It’s very difficult for a pistol in a bedroom to support trafficking charges for marijuana in the garage, especially since the burden of proof is so high.

Moreover, some seized items have the opposite effect. For example, if the police seize drug paraphernalia or medical bills that suggest a serious illness, such items weigh in favor of simple possession charges.

Texas’ tough marijuana laws may be relaxed soon, but that’s little help for people who get arrested now. For a free consultation with an experienced criminal defense attorney in Weatherford, contact Herreth Law. We routinely handle cases in Parker County and nearby jurisdictions.