One by one, US states have been adopting marijuana legalization programs, with the latest two: New York and New Mexico, happening within 24 hours of each other, and bringing the total number of states with legalization policies to 17. The south has been a bit slower to adopt, with states like Maryland, Virginia, and now Texas, leading the way. Within the last month, the Texas senate approved several bills for marijuana decriminalization, as well as to expand the medical cannabis industry, lower the penalty on THC concentrates, and to force the study of psychedelics.
The recent Texas marijuana decriminalization bill shows just how accepted cannabis has become. Every state seems to be updating its policies these days, creating room for more and more products, in a bigger and bigger market. And this is excellent for you! New products are on the rise, like delta-8 THC. This alternate form of THC provides users with a clear-headed, slightly less psychoactive high, and none of the anxiety created by delta-9. Sound interesting? If it does, we’ve got a host of Delta-8 THC products to try out. So go ahead and pick your products, and we’ll get them to you ASAP.
The US and cannabis
On the nights of March 31st 2021 and April 1st, 2021, New York and New Mexico respectively, passed legislation to open the two states for recreational cannabis markets. These two added on to become the 16th and 17th states to adopt legalization policies, with 20 locations total in the US, including Washington, DC, and the territories Guam and the Mariana Islands. All locations together include: Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Guam, Illinois, Maine, Mariana Islands, Massachusetts, Michigan, Montana, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Nevada, Oregon, South Dakota, Vermont, Washington, and Washington DC.
As you’ll notice, though New Mexico, Arizona, and California are in the south, or have southern parts that touch the Mexican border, no state on the list is associated with ‘the South’, and certainly not of ‘the deep South’. However, two over from Arizona to the right, is Texas. And Texas is considered ‘the South’, along with Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, and West Virginia.
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Of the states listed as ‘southern’, there are no current legalizations for recreational cannabis, however, the following states do have some form of medical cannabis legalization: Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, Texas, Virginia, and West Virginia. Not bad for an area that was completely against such changes when the first medical legalizations happened a few decades ago.
The other measure to consider, are those with decriminalization policies. Here we have the following southern states: Maryland, Mississippi, North Carolina, Tennessee (partially), and Virginia. Of these southern decriminalized states, Maryland, Mississippi, and Virginia each have both a full medical legalization, and a decriminalization measure in place.
Texas and cannabis laws
Texas might be considering marijuana decriminalization now, but it took some time to get there. Texas has had an interesting and varying relationship with cannabis. After banning it in 1931, Texas actually was known for having the strictest laws on file for marijuana users. Up until 1973, possession of even the smallest amounts was considered a felony, with such offenses garnering two years to life in prison. In 1973, this changed with the passage of House Bill 447 which reduced punishments (without decriminalizing). The new law set the policy that having up to two ounces was lowered to a class B misdemeanor, with a punishment of $1,000 in fines, and up to 180 days in prison, and with suspended driving privileges. That fine has been increased to $2,000 according to current listings.
The current law states: 2-4 ounces is also a misdemeanor, but punishable by up to one year in prison, and $4,000 in fines. 4+ ounces constitutes a felony charge. Four ounces comes with a mandatory minimum sentence of 180 days in prison, and can go as high as 99 years for those caught with more than 2,000 pounds. The largest mandatory minimum sentence is for 2,000 pounds, which is punishable by at least five years.
In terms of being caught selling cannabis, its a misdemeanor with seven grams or less, punishable by 6-12 months in prison, and fines of $2,000 – $4,000. From 7 grams – 5 pounds is a felony charge, punishable by 6 months – 2 years in prison, with the six months acting as a mandatory minimum sentence. This amount can incur a fine of up to $10,000. For 50+ pounds, the charge remains a felony, prison time goes from 2-99 years, with two years as a mandatory minimum sentence for five pounds, and 10 years as a mandatory minimum sentence for over 2,000 pounds. Fines go from $10,000 – $100,000. Selling to a minor will earn a person 2- 10 years in prison with the two being a mandatory minimum requirement. Such a sale would also constitute a fine of up to $10,000.
Relatively recent updates
In 2007, House Bill 2391 was signed by then governor Rick Perry, which gave law enforcement the ability to ‘cite and release’ for misdemeanor crimes. A policy that was meant to limit arrests, by giving officers the ability to issue a citation without making an arrest. This was actually followed up in 2015 with an attempted recreational legalization measure through House Bill 2165. The bill passed the House Criminal Jurisprudence Committee, but did not have time in the legislative session to make it further.
In 2015, cannabis for medical purposes was legalized, but on a very limited basis though Senate Bill 339 – Texas Compassionate Use Act. This was expanded on in 2019 through House Bill 3703 which increased the number of conditions that qualified for medical cannabis. Also in 2019, the house approved House Bill 63 which would have greatly reduced penalties, but upon passage, Dan Patrick – the Lieutenant Governor, blocked it from a senate vote.
2019 was a big year for Texas and cannabis legislation. That year also saw the passage of House Bill 1325 which legalized the cultivation of industrial hemp, and the manufacture of hemp-based products like CBD, without a doctor’s approval. This officially changed the definition of ‘cannabis’ in the state, effectively causing many jail sentences to be dismissed and criminal records to be expunged. Everything that was just mentioned is federal, with local states and municipalities creating their own decriminalization measures as seen fit.
What is going on now?
Quite a bit actually. 2021 is certainly looking to be an interesting year for Texas and drugs in general. Here are the four bills currently working their ways through the system.
Texas Marijuana Decriminalization – Updates:
What is clear from looking at the legislation – both that passed and did not, is that there is definitely a push in Texas for marijuana decriminalization/legalization. This was expanded on yet again with a few different legal advances. The first is the recent passage in the House, of House Bill 441, which decreases criminal punishments for small amounts of cannabis possession. In fact, the bill would supposedly make up to one ounce a class C misdemeanor with no jail time attached, or loss of driving privileges, effectively decriminalizing that amount. Officers in this case would only be able to issue a citation.
If Texas passes this marijuana decriminalization bill, it would also purportedly end the threat of arrest for small possession cases. Fines are still attached, but the bill would set the amount at no more than $500. The offender would have to pay the fine and plead no contest or guilty to the charge (so there is one), in order for the case to be deferred for a year.
Upon completion of a year without incident, no criminal record would be attached. If you’ll notice, this isn’t really a decriminalization at all, since offenders would have to plead guilty to a crime in court, in order to not go to jail. And the idea of it being ‘decriminalized’ only comes into play if the offender follows a specific procedure, indicating that if they do not, they might still face criminal charges. In that way, it might not eliminate the threat of jail time, instead, simply giving a possible way around it. This point has not been well addressed, as its stated both that the bill would abolish prison for such crimes, and that a procedure must be followed in order to bypass a criminal charge.
Texas is also looking to further update its medical marijuana policies. House Bill 1535 would do this to include all cancer patients and PTSD patients. It did leave out chronic pain sufferers (a strange omission considering the growing opioid epidemic). There had been a provision to the bill which allowed the Department of State Health Services to expand qualifying conditions as needed, but this was eliminated. So was a larger 5% THC cap, which was reduced to 1%. The senate vote was scheduled for May 25th, however this is not a given.
Another big move in Texas right now, is with House Bill 2593. This bill would lower the penalties for being caught with THC concentrates and THC infused products, which are currently felonies. This bill would make it so that under two ounces of concentrate or infused products would only be a Class B misdemeanor, making it the same penalty as cannabis flowers. While the house passed the bill, the senate added another provision to create a definition of ‘total THC’, with all isomers included under it, like delta-8 THC.
Of course, this makes sense given that every delta THC will have the same chemical structure. If/when this bill passes, it would criminalize delta-8 THC in all the same ways as delta-9. This too makes sense, since we already know that delta-8 is federally illegal. Since the senate made edits to the bill, the house has the option of either simply accepting these new additions, or to set up a committee to iron out differences, after which it would go to the governor. It is currently unclear which way it will go.
In a confirmation of the importance of the growing medical psychedelics field, the Texas House of Representatives recently passed House Bill 1802, which would actually require the state to further study psychedelics to treat veterans. The bill specifically cites MDMA, ketamine (a close relative of eskatamine which is currently available as Spravato), and psilocybin from magic mushrooms. Research would be conducted as a partnership between the state of Texas and Baylor College of Medicine.
This bill, like the others mentioned, still requires passage in the senate or house, and then to be signed into law by the governor.
A full recreational legalization would have been nice, but that doesn’t always happen as desired. In place of that, it looks like Texas will be passing a marijuana decriminalization bill, as well as lightening the punishments for concentrates, expanding the medical industry, and starting the study of psychedelics. Texas is certainly doing some moving and shaking to update its very outdated laws on cannabis…and psychedelics.
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Disclaimer: Hi, I’m a researcher and writer. I’m not a doctor, lawyer, or businessperson. All information in my articles is sourced and referenced, and all opinions stated are mine. I am not giving anyone advise, and though I am more than happy to discuss topics, should someone have a further question or concern, they should seek guidance from a relevant professional.