While some recent attempts to loosen restrictive marijuana laws in Texas have failed, there are several new bills in the state legislature aimed at reducing criminal penalties and sentences for certain marijuana-related offenses. If Texas does change its marijuana laws, the state would be following a national trend. It is estimated that more than 20 percent of U.S. adults now live in areas where the drug has been legalized, with many other states taking action to reduce penalties for use.
While marijuana possession is still a federal crime, states have for the most part changed their own laws without pushback from the federal government. Changes in marijuana laws in Texas may face an obstacle in Governor Greg Abbott, who has in the past spoken against legalization of the drug. He did, however sign a bill that allows some access to medical marijuana.
Current marijuana possession law in Texas
Possession of less than two ounces of marijuana in the state of Texas is a Class B misdemeanor, and offenders face up to 180 days in jail and fines that can range up to $2,000. Legislators who want to change the law are aiming their efforts at these low-level offenses, and making efforts to make medical marijuana more widely available. Ultimately, the decision may be left up to the voters of the state of Texas.
Marijuana-related bills in the Texas legislature
On the first day that legislators were allowed to file bills for the 2017 legislative session, several were introduced related to marijuana.
- House Bill 58 proposes a special court for first-time possession, in order to keep these low-level offenders out of the normal criminal justice process.
- House Bill 81 is aimed at making low-level marijuana offenses a civil rather than criminal matter. Senate Bill 170 has similar provisions.
- House Bill 82 reduces possession of one ounce or less from a Class B to a Class C misdemeanor, other than for three-time offenders.
- Senate Joint Resolution 17 aims to put the question of marijuana legalization on the ballot so voters can decide.
- Senate Joint Resolution 18 is also a ballot measure, proposing that voters decide if medical marijuana should be more broadly legalized.
It is difficult to pinpoint the exact future of marijuana laws in the state of Texas, though national trends show that there is an increased call to treat the drug less harshly, especially for low-level offenders who are clogging the criminal justice system. While the current governor shows no signs of backing down on his anti-legalization stance, he did sign a compassionate use law that allows certain patients access to marijuana. While that law isn't particularly broad, it is an indication that there is some leeway available for lawmakers who wish to broaden decriminalization of the drug.
An experienced criminal defense attorney can help you understand your rights if you or a loved one is facing marijuana posession or other drug-related charges.