Texas Cannabis Laws

Is Cannabis Legal In Texas?
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StateRecreationalMedical MarijuanaCBD
TexasNo *Restricted UseYes

Federal Law:

Recreational Medical MarijuanaCBD

Is recreational cannabis legal in Texas?

No. Recreational adult-use of cannabis is illegal in the state. While there is support from the majority of citizens to legalize, Texas still has yet to pass significant legislation for recreational use. 

The last attempt for legalizing recreational use in the state was back in 2015 when an unlikely Tea-party backed David Simpson introduced HB 2165. Simpson gained majority support from House committees by making a religious case for cannabis, appealing to more conservative representatives, yet the bill died on the floor. 

Recently, more populated and liberal municipalities in Texas have aided in lessening penalties for possession. In 2017, Harris County (the most populated county in the state) decriminalized small amounts of cannabis possession. The local referendum ensures that individuals caught with 2 oz are not subject to prosecution. This inspired the latest partial decriminalization for the city of Austin and El Paso in 2020.

While progress for legalization has slowed in recent years, many are hopeful for new bills to be introduced to Texas Congress soon with both parties’ backing. 

Is Medical Marijuana legal in Texas?

Yes and No. Full strength medical marijuana is illegal in the state. However, in 2015, with the passing of the Texas Compassionate Use Act SB 339, CBD oil with a low percentage of THC (less than .5%), became legal for approved patients to treat intractable seizures. 

Texas’ Compassionate Use Act later expanded the list of qualifying conditions in 2019 adding other terminal/severe illnesses such as:

  • Cancer
  • Autism
  • MS
  • Alzheimer’s 
  • Parkinson’s Disease
  • Huntington’s disease

Are CBD products legal in Texas? 

Yes. Since the passage of the Hemp Farming Act of 2018, hemp-derived CBD products are legal under federal law in the United States, as long as they contain at most 0.3% THC. 

The state of Texas followed suit and legalized industrial hemp cultivation in 2019. HB 1325 also legalized the possession and sale of CBD products altering the definition of legal cannabis. This resulted in many prosecutors across the state dropping charges/cases of possession that contained 0.3% or less of THC. 

Any and all CBD in food and drink is still federally illegal.

Texas’ Cannabis Timeline:

1915: El Paso became the first American city to ban cannabis. 

1931: Texas bans cannabis.

1937: The Marihuana (archaic spelling of Marijuana) Tax Act was enacted banning cannabis at the federal level. Medical Marijuana use was still permitted.

1951: The Boggs Act, Sponsored by Hale Boggs and signed into law under President Harry S. Truman, set mandatory sentencing and increased punishment for cannabis possession. 

1969: The Marihuana Tax Act is deemed unconstitutional in the landmark Leary v. United States. Timothy Leary, a professor, and activist, was arrested for the possession of marijuana in violation of the 1937 Marihuana Tax Act. Leary then challenged the act because the act required self-incrimination, which violated his Fifth Amendment rights. (The self-incrimination clause provides various protections against self-incrimination, including the right of an individual to not serve as a witness in a criminal case in which they are the defendant, better known as “Pleading the Fifth.”) The court penned the unanimous opinion by Justice John Marshall Harlan II and declared the Marihuana Tax Act unconstitutional. Therefore, Leary’s conviction was overturned.

1970: The Controlled Substances Act is enacted (replacing the unconstitutional Marihuana Tax Act). Cannabis is classified as a Schedule I drug, determined to have a high potential for abuse and no accepted medical use, thereby prohibiting its use for any purpose. This act was signed into law by President Richard Nixon. 

This legislation created five classifications, with specific qualifications for a substance to be included in each. The substances scheduling (classification) are determined by the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Yet, Congress does have the power to schedule or de-schedule substances through legislation. Substance scheduling decisions based on its potential for abuse accepted medical use in treatment in the United States and international treaties.

Classification of Controlled Substances:

Schedule I: High potential of abuse, not acceptable for medical use

Schedule II: High potential of abuse, sometimes allowed with “severe restrictions” for medical use

Schedule II: Medium potential of abuse, acceptable for medical use

Schedule IV: Moderate potential of abuse, acceptable for medical use

Schedule V: Lowest potential of abuse, acceptable for medical use

1984-1986: Mandatory Sentencing and the three-strikes law were created under the Reagan Administration. This accounts for some of the harshest drug laws designed, including mandatory 25-year imprisonment for certain drug offenses and the death penalty’s promotion to be used against “drug kingpins.”

1998: House Joint Resolution 117, encouraged by the passing of California’s Prop 215, the House of Representatives passed this measure to support the existing Federal legal process for determining the safety and efficacy of certain drugs.  

2014: The Rohrabacher–Farr Amendment passed in the U.S. House and signed into law prohibiting the Justice Department from interfering with the implementation of state medical cannabis laws.

2015: Texas Tea-party backed David Simpson introduced HB 2165 to legalize recreational use, but the bill failed on the floor.

2015: Texas Compassionate Use Act SB 339, permits CBD oil with a low percentage of THC (less than .5%) for the use of approved patients to treat intractable seizures.

2017: Texas’ Harris County decriminalized small amounts of cannabis possession.

2018: Farm bill legalizes low-THC hemp nationwide and effectively de-schedules hemp-derived cannabidiol (CBD) from the Controlled Substances Act. 

2019: Texas’ Compassionate Use Act is amended HB 3703, expanding the list for qualifying conditions.

2019: HB 1325 legalized the cultivation, possession, and sale of industrial hemp and CBD products that contain less than 0.3% THC.

2020: Austin, Texas, eliminates penalties for possessing up to 4 ounces of cannabis.

2020: El Paso, Texas, adopts a cite-and-release policy for possession of fewer, than 4 ounces of cannabis.

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