Texas Marijuana Laws
Updated January 2020
Texas has had a flurry of progressive proposals when it comes to marijuana legislation. While only one bill — a limited low-THC medical cannabis 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. Learn more about Texas marijuana laws below.
Recreational Marijuana Laws in Texas
Is marijuana legal in Texas? In short, no.
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.
Simple possession of marijuana has been essentially decriminalized in Harris County, the most popular county in Texas. 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. Even today, first-time offenders caught in possession of up to 2 ounces of marijuana are no longer subject to prosecution. Ogg’s progressive law, which took effect on March 1, 2017, ensures that law enforcement agencies don’t arrest individuals caught with four ounces or less of marijuana. Rather, offenders have 90 days to complete a four-hour decision-making class, which will remove any charges.
The city of Austin also decriminalized marijuana. In January 2020, the Austin City Council voted unanimously to stop criminal penalties for low-level cannabis possession.
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 low THC cannabis 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.
While the low THC medical cannabis 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 legalizes hemp at the federal level and allows 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.
Legal Status of Other U.S. States
Stay up to date on the latest state legislation, referendums, and public opinion polls. Our Marijuana Legalization Map allows you to browse the current status of medical and recreational marijuana laws in other U.S. states and territories.
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New Law Brings Texas One Step Closer to Legalizing Marijuana
The blossoming medicinal cannabis market gets a boost from Texas lawmakers.
Texas is one step closer to joining the 34 states where medicinal marijuana is legal after state legislators passed a law written by North Texas Republican representative and registered nurse Stephanie Klick to expand the conditions that can be treated with medicinal cannabis. Although the law narrowly defines which conditions can be treated with medicinal marijuana, it is a significant expansion.
Five years ago, Klick authored the first Compassionate Use Act, which said that medicinal marijuana administered via oil or inhaler could treat only those with intractable epilepsy. The new bill expands access to patients with terminal cancer, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, ALS, autism, and other seizure disorders, allowing them to be treated with THC, the main psychoactive compound found in marijuana. The expanded diagnoses could mean an uptick for the small but growing cohort of growers, providers, and retail businesses in the THC and CBD markets.
2019 Texas Marijuana and CBD Legislation
House Bill 3703 expands the number of conditions that can qualify for medical cannabis oil, allow the three state dispensaries to expand, and establish a research program to study the effects of cannabis as a medical treatment.
House Bill 1325 establishes a federally approved program for farmers to grow hemp as an industrial crop and expands the hemp products that can be legally purchased in Texas to any hemp products with less than 0.3 percent THC.
Morris Denton is the CEO of Austin-based Compassionate Cultivation, one of just three state-licensed companies that grow cannabis, and he says the new law will have a major impact on the number of patients covered and the physicians who treat them. He estimates there are around 150,000 patients with intractable epilepsy in the state, but the new bill could expand the THC patient base to more than a million. “It will give doctors and patients more in the playbook,” Denton says. “They want to be able to have as many different options as they can.”
Compassionate Cultivation is a manufacturer of THC and CBD products that grows the plants, processes the chemicals, packages, and distributes the medicines and oils from their facility. It was the first dispensary in Texas to provide medical cannabis to a patient under the newly expanded conditions—an Austin woman being treated for non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma—and legislation is paving the way for their growth.
A Natural Alternative
Dallas physician Dr. Mary Caire’s understanding of medicine and the use of nonpharmaceutical medicines has changed with the times. After a double residency in physical medicine and rehabilitation and internal medicine, she grew her practice to include functional medicine, seeing the importance of diet, hormones, and other natural substances to better treat chronic conditions.
Caire practices with LifeSpan, a preventive, integrative medicine practice in Dallas, and has seen the impacts of medicinal THC on her patients. A woman with lymphoma who was receiving aggressive chemotherapy was having difficulty staying hydrated and getting proper nutrition while undergoing treatment because of the nausea caused by the chemotherapy. She was also experiencing pain and fatigue. “She got everything traditional medicine had to offer and it failed,” Caire says.
When the new law passed, Caire began to prescribe oil with THC for the woman, and she saw many of the negative symptoms subside. THC improved the patient’s appetite and reduced the pain, and the improved nutrition allowed the chemotherapy to have a greater impact. Not only does THC help treat patients suffering from grave conditions, it can be used for pain and replace addictive opioids. The patient’s most recent scan revealed positive steps toward recovery.
While the legislation is a move in the right direction, Caire thinks more flexibility is needed to best address patients’ needs. “We are being told by the legislature with no medicinal experience how much of certain compounds we can use because they want to have some control over the amount that is prescribed,” she says. “We need the flexibility to compound it for their needs. The people who know what is best for that patient are the physician and the patient.”
Texas remains behind many other states when it comes to the legalization of medicinal cannabis with THC, but it is home to a booming market for CBD oil, which extracts the cannabinoids from hemp and marijuana. Another law passed this summer adds clarity to which CBD products are legal in Texas. Hemp Business Journal reports that the CBD market will grow from an estimated $202 million in 2017 to $2.1 billion in 2020, but because there is a lack of clarity about whether CBD is a medicine, dietary supplement, or food supplement, oversight of these products leaves providers and retailers wanting standardization.
Co-owners of retail chain CBD Kratom David Palatnik and Dafna Revah run 33 locations nationwide and six in DFW, and agree with the need for more rules. They have their own rigorous lab standards and would embrace additional oversight. “We would like to have industry standards across the board that everyone follows,” Revah says. “Medical professionals will feel better about recommending it.”
There is still a long way to go for Texas to catch up with the rest of the country in the use, regulation, and legalization of medicinal marijuana and other products, but expanded future looks inevitable. For those treating patients who could benefit from added legalization, the transition can’t come soon enough. “I think we need to change the conversation and be open-minded,” Caire says. “We took an oath that we would do the best we can, do no harm, and put the patients’ interest first. This substance meets all the criteria that we strive for with our patients.”
The blossoming medicinal cannabis market gets a boost from Texas lawmakers.