Texas has had a flurry of progressive proposals when it comes to marijuana legislation. While only one bill — a limited medical CBD law — passed, there are still significant steps for the state to take before it adequately provides its residents safe and legal access to cannabis. Texas lawmakers have, however, legalized the commercial production of hemp.
Recreational Marijuana Laws in Texas
Currently, all possession of marijuana for recreational purposes in Texas is a crime. Those caught with up to 4 ounces of marijuana are charged with a misdemeanor and subject to fines up to $4,000 and a year in jail. Possessing more than 4 ounces is a felony, punishable by 180 days to up to 99 years and fines of $10,000 to $50,000, depending on the possession amount.
Over the past two years, Texas’ legislatures have introduced decriminalization bills, but none have yet to pass. In December 2016, state lawmakers have filed several new decriminalization bills that will be considered in the 2017 legislative session. Until then, Texas will continue to prosecute those possessing marijuana, including mandatory minimum sentences for those in possession of or attempting to sell large quantities of the drug.
Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg, upon being sworn into office in January 2017, announced that she planned to decriminalize all simple possession of marijuana in Harris County, the most populous county in Texas. Right now first-time offenders caught in possession of up to 2 ounces of marijuana aren’t subject to prosecution. Ogg’s new progressive law, which takes effect March 1, 2017, will make all misdemeanor possession charges are diverted around jail. The law will ensure that law enforcement agencies don’t arrest individuals caught with four ounces or less of marijuana. Rather, offenders will have 90 days to complete a four-hour decision-making class, which will remove any charges.
Medical Marijuana Laws in Texas
Despite some legislative support in the last session, no comprehensive medical marijuana policy has been enacted in the state. On June 1, 2015, Texas did pass a CBD oil bill. Qualified patients are required to first get prescriptions from two certified specialists, at which point they will be legally allowed to use cannabis oil with at most 0.5% THC and 10% CBD.
While the CBD law has been put into effect, many are skeptical that the system cannot be successfully implemented as written. Because doctors are required to “prescribe” rather than “recommend” or “certify” patients, very few physicians are willing to do so because prescribing a Schedule I substance puts their DEA license to prescribe controlled substances at risk.
Initially, Texas’ medical marijuana law applied only to the treatment of intractable epilepsy. In June 2019, Gov.Greg Abbot signed into law House Bill 3703 to expand the program to more conditions.
Qualifying conditions for medical marijuana under Texas’ medical marijuana now include:
- Alzheimer’s Disease
- Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS)
- Huntington’s Disease
- Intractable Epilepsy and Seizure Disorders
- Multiple Sclerosis (MS)
- Parkinson’s Disease
- Terminal Cancer
CBD (cannabidiol) from Hemp Oil in Texas
Hemp-derived CBD products are legal under Federal Law in the United States; however, individual state laws are dynamic and fluid. Individual states may enact their own laws governing hemp-derived CBD.
Cultivation of Cannabis in Texas
The cultivation of marijuana for personal or medical use is illegal in Texas. In June 2019, however, Texas Gov. Greg Abbot (R) signed House Bill 1325 to legalize the commercial production of hemp and hemp-derived CBD oil as long as they contain no more than 0.3% of tetrahydrocannabinol. The new law was in response to the passage of the 2018 Farm Bill, which it legal for states to pass policies permitting hemp production. The Texas Department of Agriculture will soon submit the rules and guidelines for hemp production in the state to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), and it is expected that hemp production will start in Texas during the 2020 crop year.
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