There may come a day in the not too distant future when recreational marijuana is legal – or at least “decriminalized” – in Texas. But, that day has yet to come, meaning that possession, use, and distribution of pot in the Lone Star State—other than for narrowly authorized medical purposes—is still against the law and can still subject you to a criminal conviction with potentially severe penalties.
Tens of Thousands of Texans Charged With Pot Possession Every Year
Too many Texans believe that more accepting attitudes about marijuana among the public and a growing number of states where pot is legal means that an arrest and conviction for a marijuana offense isn’t a big deal, or that police won’t bother making arrests for pot. The more than 60,000 Texans arrested for marijuana possession in 2016 should convince you otherwise.
If you are charged with marijuana possession or distribution in Hays, Guadalupe, or Comal County, don’t make the mistake of taking it lightly or quickly agreeing to a guilty plea. In addition to fines and time behind bars, a conviction for even the lowest level marijuana offense can restrict your ability to get a job, serve in the military, or get financial aid for college.
You need to speak with a lawyer as soon as possible after a pot-related arrest. The Law Office of Case J. Darwin of Hays, Guadalupe, and Comal County has extensive experience defending clients against marijuana charges and offers free initial consultations to help you understand your rights and options.
Texas Marijuana Laws and Penalties
The penalties for marijuana possession in Texas largely depend on the amount of pot involved.
Simple possession of marijuana starts out as a Class B Misdemeanor (possession of two ounces or less). A Class B Misdemeanor is punishable by a fine not to exceed $2,000 and no more than 180 days in jail.
It is important to note that a person can only be prosecuted for possession of marijuana if he has a “usable quantity of marihuana.” See TEX. HEALTH & SAFETY CODE ANN. § 481.121 (West 2018). This is unlike possession of other drugs, where “trace” amounts permit prosecution. See Joseph v. State, 897 S.W.2d 374, 376 (Tex. Crim. App. 1995) (en banc) (explaining for drugs, other than marijuana, the amount need not be “usable” or “visible to the naked eye”). The penalties for Possession of Marijuana climb from a Class B Misdemeanor, depending upon the amount of marijuana possessed, starting with the possession of more than 2 ounces of marijuana.
Also, the offense level is increased by one degree if marijuana is possessed or distributed in a drug-free zone. See TEX. HEALTH & SAFETY CODE ANN. § 481.134 (West 2018). A drug-free zone is typically possession or distribution of drugs at or within 1,000 feet of a school or playground. See TEX. HEALTH & SAFETY CODE ANN. § 481.134 (West 2018). If the amount of marijuana possessed or distributed, with the drug-free zone enhancement, is a third-degree felony or second-degree felony, the minimum amount of punishment starts out at 7 years, while if it is a first-degree felony, the minimum amount of punishment starts out at 10 years. See TEX. HEALTH & SAFETY CODE ANN. § 481.134 (West 2018). Also, a plea to time with a drug-free zone enhancement requires a defendant to serve out his sentence day for day or day for day for 5 years, whichever is less. See TEX. GOV’T CODE ANN. § 508.145(e) (West 2018). Thus, a plea to a drug-free zone enhancement severely affects a defendant’s possibility of parole.
Possession of Marijuana is codified in Texas Health and Safety Code section 481.121, “Offense: Possession of Marihuana.” See TEX. HEALTH & SAFETY CODE ANN. § 481.121 (West 2018). Section 481.121 provides in full,
(a) Except as authorized by this chapter, a person commits an offense if the person knowingly or intentionally possesses a usable quality of marihuana.
(b)An offense under Subsection (a) is:
- a Class B misdemeanor if the amount of marihuana possessed is two ounces or less;
- a Class A misdemeanor if the amount of marihuana possessed is four ounces or less but more than two ounces;
- a state jail felony if the amount of marihuana possessed is five pounds or less but more than four ounces;
- a felony of the third degree if the amount of marihuana possessed is 50 pounds or less but more than 5 pounds;
- a felony of the second degree if the amount of marihuana possessed is 2,000 pounds or less but more than 50 pounds; and
- punishable by imprisonment in the Texas Department of
Criminal Justice for life or for a term of not more than 99 years or less than 5 years, and a fine not to exceed $50,000, if the amount of marihuana possessed is more than 2,000 pounds.
See Tex. Health & Safety Code Ann. § 481.121 (West 2018).
Although not viewed as serious as other offenses, possession of marijuana can severely affect a person’s record. A conviction for possession of marijuana will result in a six month driver’s license suspension. See Tex. Transp. Code Ann. § 521.372 (West 2018). A conviction for marijuana can also affect a person’s ability to receive financial aid.
Call Today for Your Free Consultation With a San Marcos Texas Drug Crimes Defense Attorney
You may one day be able to possess and use pot legally in Texas. But, until then, you are putting your future in jeopardy if you get caught and charged for doing so. If you are facing a Texas marijuana possession or distribution charges, you need to call an experienced drug crime defense lawyer immediately.
Call the Law Office of Case J. Darwin today at (512) 357-3953 or contact us online to arrange for your free initial consultation.