Texas Governor Greg Abbott signed into law on June 15 House Bill 1535, which provides a modest expansion of access to medical marijuana in the state.
Going into effect on Sept. 2, the new law now permits access to low-THC medical marijuana for patients with certain ailments. Previously, only terminally ill cancer patients were eligible for medical marijuana in Texas, but the new law now permits access to medication in 10 different circumstances.
The expanded list of qualified ailments includes the following:
- Seizure disorders
- Multiple sclerosis
- Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis
- Cancer (whether terminal or not)
- Incurable neurodegenerative diseases
- Post-traumatic stress disorder
- Any medical condition approved for a research program
Initially, the House’s version of the law would have raised the tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) concentration limit to 5%. After the bill was significantly watered down in the senate, however, that amount was reduced to 1%. Regardless, the new bill provides a net increase over the state’s current 0.5% THC limit for medical marijuana.
The likely reason why this limit became a bit of a hot potato between the Senate and the House was because THC is the chemical that induces the “high” associated with marijuana use. Medical marijuana can contain THC, but it usually contains a higher concentration of cannabidiol (CBD), which provides most of the benefits associated with medical marijuana.
Marijuana Is Still Tightly Controlled in Texas
Although more people will be able to access medical marijuana in Texas, it still remains a tightly controlled substance at the state level. That means that if you are caught with marijuana and aren’t a qualified patient, you risk getting prison time.
Even if you are a qualified medical marijuana patient, you may be caught in possession of marijuana paraphernalia, an illegal amount of marijuana, or marijuana that has an illegal THC concentration. As a result, you can face penalties just as severe as if you weren’t a patient.
Penalties for Marijuana-Related Crimes in Texas
Texas laws prohibit the possession, sale, cultivation, and possession of paraphernalia associated with marijuana. We’ll focus on possession of marijuana and paraphernalia below, as these criminal charges may be more likely to affect a medical marijuana patient.
Possession of marijuana is punished as a misdemeanor up to 4 ounces of marijuana. If someone possesses 2 ounces or less marijuana, they can be punished with six months in prison; between 2-4 ounces, they can be punished with up to a year in jail.
When one is in possession of marijuana exceeding four ounces, they can be sentenced to anywhere between six months in jail and 99 years in prison. One’s potential sentence would scale with how many pounds of marijuana one had in their possession.
Possession of paraphernalia is a misdemeanor as long as paraphernalia wasn’t sold during a second offense or given to a minor (these are felonies punishable by up to two years in prison). Possession of paraphernalia itself is a misdemeanor punishable by a $500 fine.
Do You Need Legal Assistance?
Whether you are a medical marijuana patient or not, contact an attorney as soon as possible if you are investigated or arrested for a marijuana-related offense. Texas takes drugs laws concerning marijuana seriously, which means you need a dedicated attorney who can help you reach a better outcome.