Houston Marijuana Defense Attorney
While many states have moved to decriminalize the medicinal and recreational use of marijuana in recent years, Texas remains steadfast in its commitment to prohibition. Marijuana is illegal in Texas, period. This means you cannot legally possess, give, or sell any amount of the substance. It is even a crime to bring marijuana into Texas from a state where you acquired it legally, such as Colorado.
While marijuana possession may not seem like a big deal, a conviction will still give you a criminal record. This is why you need to work with an experienced Houston marijuana attorney who understands the local criminal justice system. At the Law Offices of Tad Nelson & Associates, we represent residents of Houston, Galveston, and League City who have been charged with the possession and distribution of marijuana. Attorney Tad Nelson is a former Houston-area criminal prosecutor, so he understands how seriously the government takes even simple marijuana possession charges. His team will fight to make sure you are treated fairly by the police and the courts.
What Are Criminal Consequences for Marijuana Possession in Texas?
While a number of states across the U.S. either have decriminalized or legalized marijuana, Texas is not currently one of those states. While The Texas Tribune reported in early 2022 that prosecutions for small amounts of marijuana are not the state’s focus and that “most Texas voters support decriminalizing marijuana in some form,” marijuana remains illegal. A poll conducted by the University of Texas and The Texas Tribune in 2021 showed that more than 40 percent of Republicans in the state believe marijuana should be legalized for recreational use, while almost 75 percent of Democrats agree. Altogether, about 60 percent of voters in Texas say recreational marijuana should be made legal. Until that time, however, you can still face criminal charges for marijuana possession in Texas.
What do you need to know about the criminal consequences for marijuana possession? Our Texas drug defense lawyers can tell you more.
Marijuana Has Not Been Decriminalized or Legalized in Texas
Marijuana has not been decriminalized or legalized in Texas, as we noted above. Rather, under the Texas Penal Code, possession of marijuana can result in a misdemeanor or felony offense depending upon the amount in your possession:
- Class B misdemeanor for possession of 2 ounces or less;
- Class A misdemeanor for possession of 4 ounces or less (but more than 2 ounces);
- State jail felony for possession of 5 pounds or less (but more than 4 ounces);
- Third-degree felony for possession of 50 pounds or less (but more than 5 pounds);
- Second-degree felony for possession of 2,000 pounds or less (but more than 50 pounds)l and
- Life imprisonment for possession of more than 2,000 pounds.
Federal Charges for Marijuana Possession
Although it is legal to possess recreational marijuana in some states—but not in Texas—possession of marijuana remains unlawful under federal law. The consequences for federal drug crimes charges for marijuana possession will depend upon the amount of the drug in a person’s possession.
Texas Medical Marijuana Exception
One exception to marijuana possession laws in Texas concerns medical marijuana. Texas’s compassionate use program, or CUP, allows “Texans with certain medical conditions” to qualify for a medical marijuana prescription, according to Texas.gov. In order to qualify for a CUP medical marijuana prescription, you must have one of the following conditions:
- Seizure disorder;
- Multiple sclerosis;
- Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis;
- Terminal cancer; or
- Incurable neurodegenerative disease.
If you have a valid prescription under the Texas CUP, you will not face criminal charges for marijuana possession, as long as you meet all other requirements. To be clear, having a prescription for medical marijuana does not allow a person to possess more than the amount in the prescription and is not a defense for possession of large quantities of marijuana or marijuana obtained outside the medical marijuana system in Texas.
What Are the Penalties for Possessing or Distributing Marijuana?
Marijuana–or “marihuana,” as it is formally called under Texas law–refers to the cannabis plant, its seeds, and most compounds derived from the plant itself. Simple possession of marijuana is a misdemeanor in Texas. The actual offense level depends on the “usable quantity of marijuana” determined by weight:
- For 2 ounces or less of marijuana, possession is a Class B misdemeanor. This carries a maximum penalty of 180 days in jail and/or a fine of up to $2,000.
- For 2 to 4 ounces of marijuana, possession is a Class A misdemeanor. This effectively doubles the penalties for a Class B misdemeanor, to 1 year in jail and/or a maximum fine of $4,000.
- For more than 4 ounces but less than 5 pounds (80 ounces) of marijuana, possession is now a felony. Specifically, it is a state jail felony, where the prison term is between 180 days (6 months) and 2 years, and the maximum fine is $10,000.
- For 5 to 50 pounds of marijuana, possession is a third-degree felony. The prison sentence here ranges from 2 to 10 years.
- For 50 to 2,000 pounds of marijuana, possession is a second-degree felony. This prison sentence here ranges from 2 to 20 years.
- For more than 2,000 pounds of marijuana, possession is a first-degree felony, which carries a potential life (99-year) prison sentence.
There is a similar escalating scale for the “delivery” of marijuana to another person:
- For one-quarter ounce (7 grams) or less, delivery is a Class B misdemeanor unless there is remuneration–i.e. the recipient pays for the drug–in which case delivery is charged as a Class A misdemeanor.
- For 7 grams to 5 pounds, delivery of marijuana is a state jail felony.
At the higher felony levels, the possession and delivery penalties are the same.
Texas also imposes enhanced penalties on individuals caught distributing marijuana to children–i.e., anyone under 18 or enrolled in an elementary or secondary school. Delivery in such cases can be charged as a second-degree felony, separate and apart from the normal possession or distribution offenses. But if the accused is also a minor, that is considered a valid “affirmative defense” to the felony charge. It is also a valid defense if the defendant was under 21 at the time of the arrest and distributed 7 grams or less of marijuana without receiving any compensation.
How a Houston Marijuana Lawyer Can Help You
A marijuana possession arrest does not automatically mean a conviction or jail time. In their zeal to prosecute minor drug offenses, law enforcement often make critical constitutional mistakes. If police only discovered marijuana after conducting an illegal search of you or your property (such as your home or car), that evidence is not admissible in court. At the Law Offices of Tad Nelson & Associates, we have extensive experience in filing and winning these kinds of suppression motions.
If your case does go to trial, the prosecution must still prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you intentionally possessed marijuana. Depending on the facts and circumstances, that may not be what happened in your case. Perhaps you borrowed a friend’s car unaware there was marijuana in the glove compartment. Or maybe you were at a party where there was drug use but you did not directly participate. It is not a crime to be in the general vicinity of marijuana–only for you to be in direct possession.
And even if the prosecution can establish the marijuana belonged to you, it may still be possible to avoid a criminal conviction and jail time. In March 2017, the Harris County District Attorney’s office issued a statement emphasizing that it would “use its prosecutorial discretion to divert offenders in possession of misdemeanor amounts of marijuana pre-charge.” In plain English, the DA will work with non-violent offenders who are only caught with a small amount of marijuana for personal use. Even the District Attorney concedes that throwing all pot users in jail produces “no tangible safety benefit for the people of Harris County.”
Seek Advice from a Texas Drug Crimes Defense Lawyer Today
When you are facing charges for any type of drug offense in Texas, it is critical to get started on your defense with an experienced and aggressive Texas drug crimes defense attorney. An advocate at our firm can speak with you today about defending against marijuana charges in Texas. Contact The Law Offices of Tad Nelson & Associates to learn more about how we can assist you.
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