Despite the obvious medical benefits of marijuana; it remains completely illegal in the state of Texas as well as under federal law. In Texas, medical marijuana is not recognized as a valid treatment option for any disease. n addition, marijuana is also illegal under federal law and is considered a schedule I drug with no medical uses under the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) (21 U.S.C. § 811).
How is marijuana defined under Texas law?
Cannabis, sometimes called weed, bud, or pot is defined under the Health and Safety Code §481.002(26), which states any compound, manufacture, derivative, salt, mixture or preparation of the plant Cannabis Sativa L. is considered to be marijuana.
Which are serious criminal matters that can result from the recreational use, possession, or cultivation of cannabis in Texas?
- Possession of Marijuana
- Trafficking in Marijuana
- Possession of Paraphernalia
- Misdemeanor Marijuana Possession
- Felony Marijuana Possession
- Cultivation of Marijuana / Grow Houses
- Sale or Distribution of Marijuana
- DWI with Marijuana
Note: Being in certain drug-free zones such as a public or private school could enhance the penalties even further.
Which are the penalties for marijuana possession?
If a person is arrested for possession of marijuana or drug paraphernalia (such as rolling papers, pipes, etc.), she/he could be facing some serious penalties. What kind of punishment the person is dealt depends on the amount of the drug they are charged with possessing. If the person possessed a large amount of marijuana upon arrest, the District Attorney may charge them with possession with intent to sell, which is an enhanced charge. Section 481.121 of the Texas Controlled Substance Acts makes it illegal for anyone to knowingly possess marijuana. Under the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure, the typical penalties for possession are as follows:
- Possession of paraphernalia – Class C misdemeanor, with a $500 fine;
- Possession of 2 oz. or less – Class B misdemeanor, subjecting the defendant to 180 days in jail and a fine of $2,000;
- Possession of 2 to 4 oz. – Class A misdemeanor, meaning the person could face up to a year in jail and a $4,000 fine;
- Possession of between 4 oz. and 5 pounds – state jail felony, with a punishment of between 180 days jail to 2 years in prison plus a $10,000 fine;
- Possession of 5 to 50 lbs. – third-degree felony, with a punishment of 2-10 years in prison and a fine of $10,000;
- Possession of between 50 and 2,000 lbs. – second-degree felony, which means the defendant could be sentenced to 2-20 years’ incarceration and a $10,000 fine; or
- Possession of more than 2,000 pounds – first-degree felony, with a punishment of 5-99 years and $50,000 fine.
Which are the penalties for distributing marijuana?
The person can still be charged even if the exchange did not result in money or something of value. The crime can also include using another person to deliver the drug or leaving it in a car to be picked up at a specific location.
- Gift of ¼ oz. or less – Class B misdemeanor, subjecting the defendant to 180 days in jail and a $2,000 fine;
- Sale of paraphernalia – Class A misdemeanor, resulting in 1 year and jail and up to a $4,000 fine. If the buyer was a minor, at least 3 years younger than the seller, then the sale is a state jail felony and the punishment is 180 days to 2 years in prison and a $10,000 fine;
- Sale of ¼ oz. of marijuana or less – Class A misdemeanor, subjecting the defendant to up to 1 year in jail and a $4,000 fine;
- Sale of ¼ oz. to 5 pounds – state jail felony, resulting in 180 days to 2 years in prison and a $10,000 fine;
- Sale of 5 to 50 pounds – second-degree felony, with a punishment of 2-20 years’ incarceration and a $10,000 fine;
- Sale of 50 to 2,000 pounds – first-degree felony, with 5-99 years in prison and a $10,000 fine; and
- Sale of more than 2,000 pounds – felony, with a minimum mandatory sentence of 10-99 years and a $100,000 fine.
What does driving under the influence of marijuana entail?
Texas does not have a separate body of law for driving under the influence of marijuana. Those arrested for driving under the influence or marijuana will be charged and sentenced as though they were driving while intoxicated (DWI). To determine the amount of the drug in the persons system she/he may have to submit to a chemical test of urine or blood.
For a first offense, the penalty includes a minimum 72 hours in jail; a fine; community service; a mandatory DWI education program; and a license suspension for 90 days to a year. For subsequent offenses, the penalty can include up to ten years in prison as well as fines that can cost up to $2,000 and community service.
Under Texas Transportation Code §78, DWI is also a surchargeable offense. This means that the defendant will be forced to pay a surcharge, separate from the fines above, every year for three years following his conviction. For the first offense, the surcharge is $1000 a year. For subsequent offenses, the surcharge is $2000 a year.
Possible defenses if a person has been arrested for marijuana-related offenses?
- Illegal searches and seizures
- Invalid search warrant
- Failure to Possess: It might be possible to show that though the person was in an area where a drug was present and accessible to them, they did not possess the drug.
What is the Marijuana Tax Stamp Act?
Most people do not realize that Texas requires marijuana users to pay taxes on the drug, even though it is illegal. This means that those who possess marijuana are required to buy tax stamps and affix these stamps to the package(s) containing the drug. Those who do not do so may be prosecuted separately, under Chapter 159 of the Tax Code.
The tax for marijuana is $3.50/gram. The tax does not apply to individuals who possess less than 4 ounces of the drug. Failure to comply with the Tax Stamp Act is a third-degree felony, resulting in a fine of 200% of the tax.