Texas marijuana laws have often been regarded as some of the strictest in the country and with good reason. Until recently, all marijuana plants were considered illegal, something that has been constant since the 1930s. Famously, even country legend Willie Nelson couldn’t find a way to escape getting busted.
The only exception has been in Bexar County, where the DA’s office has refused to prosecute for small amounts of marijuana.
Yet this all changed last year. Legislators have muddied the waters of marijuana law in Texas by making some types of the plant legal. This has thrown prosecutions into disarray and made a lot of Texans wonder what is and isn’t legal anymore.
We know how complicated this can seem and we’ve got your back. We’re going to take a look at how Texas marijuana laws changed last year and how they might change this year.
Ready to learn more? Then keep reading.
The History of Texas Marijuana Laws
The first well-known usage of marijuana in Texas dates back to the late 1800s when Mexican residents of the Rio Grande area are recorded to have smoked the drug regularly. Texas first began to take a stand on the drug in 1915, when El Paso became the first city in the country to ban marijuana. In 1919, sales were restricted to pharmacies, and in 1923, it was made illegal to buy the drug over the counter.
It wouldn’t be long until, in 1931, Texas legislators made the drug illegal to possess in any quantity. Until 1973, as older readers may recall, possession of small amounts could land you in jail for life. This made Texas the worst state in the union for marijuana users.
The first reform came in 1973, when legislators reduced the jail sentence to 180 days at a maximum and made possession of fewer than two ounces a misdemeanor. In 2007, Rick Perry allowed police to cite and release those in possession of marijuana.
An attempt to make recreational marijuana legal in 2015 failed, but that same year, legislators legalized medical marijuana with a THC concentration of less than 0.5 percent. The largest reforms came in 2019, however.
In 2019, the Texas House of Representatives and the Senate expanded the list of medical conditions that you can treat with marijuana and also legalized hemp products with a concentration of less than 0.3 percent THC.
What the New Laws Mean
Do the new laws mean that you can roll up a joint and smoke it on the street outside the capitol? No, not at all, but what it does mean is that Texans can now use certain marijuana products that were previously illegal. Employees and employers need to know what’s legal and what isn’t for drug testing purposes, as this article explains.
Before the new expanded conditions law, you could only use low-THC medical marijuana to treat epilepsy. Today, you can treat terminal cancer, autism, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, and other conditions with medical marijuana. You still need to buy these legally and must contain very small amounts of THC, though.
If you don’t suffer from these health conditions, you can still use some marijuana products in Texas now. The legalization of hemp means that people can now take CBD products.
CBD is a compound found in marijuana that does not get you high, unlike THC. It can relax you and help you get to sleep more easily and has also shown promise in treating a range of other health conditions like epilepsy, anxiety, depression, and chronic pain.
Hemp contains very little THC: you’re not going to get stoned from smoking it, nor will you get high if you use CBD products. Today, you can go to stores across Texas and purchase CBD gummies or tinctures, completely legally.
You still need to be cautious, though. Hemp and marijuana flowers look identical and until they’re tested, you could spend time in a cell if you’re carrying a lot of it.
The Future of Texas Marijuana Laws
While medical marijuana laws in Texas have changed a lot, we’re still far from any kind of full legalization. Will we see it on the ballot in 2020? It seems very unlikely.
Neither the Republican or Democratic primary propositions featured any discussion of marijuana legalization. It isn’t a distant possibility, though.
In 2015, the Republican representative David Simpson put forward House Bill 2165 in an attempt to legalize marijuana usage from a conservative outlook. Simpson argued that God had made marijuana and this wasn’t a mistake that the state needed to try and fix. The House Criminal Jurisprudence Committee supported Simpson’s argument, but it didn’t make any further ground.
This does demonstrate that, to a limited extent, there is bipartisan support for marijuana legalization in Texas. We could see adult recreational use legalized at some point in the coming decade, which would be a coup for the state. If a traditionally solid red state legalized the use of marijuana for mature adults, it would show the nation that there’s strong bipartisan support for a relaxation of marijuana laws.
What do Texans think of legalizing the drug? Around 38 percent of Texans support full legalization, while 35 percent medical legalization. Only 14 percent oppose any relaxation of current laws.
Among Democrats, the support for legalization is higher, with 54 percent supporting legalization. Among Republicans, 22 percent support full legalization and 44 percent support legalizing marijuana for medical purposes. Independents sit in the middle, with 39 percent supporting the full legalization of the drug.
There are grounds for debate on the issue, at the very least.
What do you think? Should marijuana be legalized or are current Texas marijuana laws as generous as they should get? Should we roll back to stricter punishments?
If you’re interested in reading more informative articles about current events in our state, keep reading our local news section!