Pot with a Purpose: Medicinal Marijuana in Texas

In recent years, medical marijuana has become a hot political topic, sometimes leading to legislative change. Proponents of medical marijuana suggest, and some studies have shown, that marijuana helps to treat and alleviate symptoms associated with a variety of conditions, including glaucoma, multiple sclerosis (specifically muscular spasticity), Alzheimer’s disease, certain kinds of cancer (primarily breast and brain), chronic pain, and related pain and depression that is commonly associated with these conditions.

Over fifteen states now have laws that have legalized the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes with some restrictions [1], and twelve more have pending legislation on the books [2]. Under these provisions, states have reduced or removed criminal penalties for the possession and use of marijuana, or they have at least provided what is considered an “affirmative defense” to possession and use, provided the “offender” meets certain requirements. Generally, the legislation in these states sets a limit on how much marijuana a person can have, where they can use it (i.e. not in public), and requires registration with a central registry that shows who is entitled to possess and use “medicinal marijuana.” However, several United States Attorney Generals have cautioned these states that the users of medicinal marijuana, even if “approved” and “registered” with the state, may still be subject to federal penalties because the possession, use, growing, and/or selling of marijuana is still prohibited by federal law.

In Texas, several groups openly support the legalization of medicinal marijuana, including the Texas Coalition for Compassionate Care. But as of 2012, no legislative changes have been made, meaning that marijuana use or possession – for whatever reason – is still considered illegal in Texas. Penalties for marijuana possession and sale are governed by the Texas Controlled Substances Act, Section 481. If you possess a usable amount of marijuana in Texas, you could be charged with the following:

  • 0 to 2 ounces ….. Class B misdemeanor, $0 to $2,000 fine and up to 180 days in jail
  • 2 to 4 ounces ….. Class A misdemeanor, $0 to $4,000 fine and up to 365 days in jail
  • 4 oz. to 5 lbs. ….. State jail felony, $0 to $10,000 fine and 180 days to 2 years in state jail
  • 5 to 50 lbs. ….. 3rd degree felony, $0 to $10,000 fine and 2 to 10 years in TDC
  • 50 to 2,000 lbs. ….. 2nd degree felony, $0 to $10,000 fine and 2 to 20 years in TDC
  • 2,000+ lbs. ….. 1st degree felony, $0 to $10,000 fine and 5 to 99 years or life in TDC

Even if you’re struggling with chronic pain, and even if you have been “approved” and registered for use of medicinal marijuana in another state, you won’t have the same protections afforded to you by other states here in Texas. Sure, you can hope that a prosecutor, judge, or jury will give some leniency, and there’s certainly an argument to be made on the basis of public policy and doing what’s in the best interest of you, a citizen who is facing a medical dilemma. But until the law changes in Texas – which doesn’t look like it’s going to happen anytime soon – be prepared for the worst case scenario. And if you find yourself needing legal counsel, make sure it’s someone who understands your individual situation.

[1]  These states include Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Delaware, Hawaii, Maine, Michigan, Missouri, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington, and the District of Columbia.

[2]  These include Alabama, Connecticut, Idaho, Illinois, Kansas, Maryland, Massachusetts, Missouri, New Hampshire, New York, Ohio, and Pennsylvania.

Written by: Rosenthal Kalabus & Therrian Last Updated : August 14, 2023