What is the Punishment for Possession of Marijuana?

Simple possession of marijuana starts out as a Class B Misdemeanor (possession of two ounces or less).  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 a 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 marijuana.”  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:

(1) a Class B misdemeanor if the amount of marijuana possessed is two ounces or less;

(2) a Class A misdemeanor, if the amount of marijuana possessed, is four ounces or less but more than two ounces;

(3) a state jail felony if the amount of marijuana possessed is five pounds or less but more than four ounces;

(4) a felony of the third degree if the amount of marijuana possessed is 50 pounds or less but more than 5 pounds;

(5) a felony of the second degree if the amount of marijuana possessed is 2,000 pounds or less but more than 50 pounds; and

(6) 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. Contact Case. J Darwin Inc. for additional information or to schedule a consultation.

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