This Is What Legal Cannabis Looks Like In Texas

In 2015, Texas passed the Compassionate Use Act, legalizing marijuana for medical use. But before you get too excited and head on down to Texas for your favorite medical strain, it’s best to understand the medical laws in Texas are so restrictive it’s a wonder anyone can use it at all. And recreational weed? Forget about it.

Texas has never been known as a state to embrace cannabis. In fact, in 1931 they declared cannabis a narcotic, and getting caught with it could get you life in prison. Fast forward some 80 years later and not much has changed. If police catch you with a joint and you could still end up in jail.

What exactly are medical and recreational laws like in the Lone Star State? It’s legal for medical use (sort of), yet still decidedly illegal when it comes to recreational use. Here we take a closer look at cannabis laws in Texas.

Medical Marijuana Laws in Texas

Getting caught with a joint in Texas could land you in jail For residents of Texas interested in using marijuana for their ailments, the Compassionate Use Act passed in 2015 held promise. That is until they read the fine print. Qualifying conditions include epilepsy. And that’s it. Medical marijuana in Texas can’t be used to treat cancer, Alzheimer’s, PTSD, or any other conditions typically allowed in medical-friendly states.

Then there’s the whole THC thing. The Compassionate Use Act specifies that only “low-THC cannabis” is permittable. According to Texas Occupational Code, Section 169.001, “low-THC cannabis” is that which contains 0.5% THC.

Here’s the real catch. While Texas is basically a CBD-only medical state for one qualifying condition, the CBD content a product contains is also required to be on the low side. Medical marijuana products sold in Texas can only contain 10% or less CBD.

Home cultivation is prohibited, meaning even if parents of patients of “intractable epilepsy” wanted to grow their own to make products for their children they would essentially be breaking the law.

Smoking cannabis (low-CBD strains only, of course) is also prohibited by Texas law.

Most doctors won't prescribe cannabisIt gets better. For patients with intractable epilepsy who want to medicate with marijuana, they must get two qualifying medical professionals to recommend it. First, the patient’s primary physician must make a recommendation after assessing that the “risk of medical use” outweighs the prospective benefits. One physician down, but still one to go. Once the recommendation has been made, a second physician must agree with the first.

If you think this all sounds a bit ridiculous, you’re not alone.

The People Fight Back

Last August, the Texas Cannabis Industry Association let their voice be heard. Formal letters of complaint were sent to Department of Public Safety and Texas Governor Greg Abbott. The letters assert that the implementation of the Compassionate Use Act was so inadequately executed that it broke a regulation that requires state agencies to act in good faith.

Would-be cannabis business owners in Texas aren’t the only ones who believe Texas has failed with their restrictive medical marijuana program. Because Texas has used the term “prescribe” rather than “recommend” like most states, many doctors in Texas are skeptical to offer medical marijuana.

Doctor's could lose their licensesPrescribing medical cannabis rather than recommending it has the potential to get doctors in trouble with federal laws. Given the option of prescribing cannabis or losing their medical license, it’s safe to say most doctors are going to stick with their chosen profession. There are currently eight participating doctors in a state with 27 million people.

According to DEA spokesperson Rusty Payne, “Doctors cannot prescribe Schedule I Substances. If a medicine could be prescribed, it would not be Schedule I. Does that make sense?”

In December 2016, CBD was moved into the Schedule I category of dangerous drugs. Schedule I drugs (which include heroin, marijuana, MDMA, and most psychedelics) are considered to be those that hold a high potential for abuse and have no currently accepted medical value. Cocaine and meth, both Schedule II drugs, are safer than CBD according to the powers that be.

An Expensive Venture

If you want to open a medical dispensary in Texas, you better have the money to do so. License fees to grow medical cannabis are to the tune of $500,000. Those who do grow are mandated to have surveillance video of each square foot of their facility and maintain video footage for two years. Third-party testers for quality are also forbidden.

There is currently only one dispensary open for business in Texas, although two more are scheduled to open this year.

To say that medical cannabis laws in Texas leave little to be desired is an understatement. What about recreational laws? Marijuana in Texas might as well still be considered the “devil’s weed” with the laws upheld for possession in the Lone Star State.

Recreational Marijuana Laws in Texas

The consequences for being caught with cannabis are severeWhile you won’t go to jail for life anymore, you can still get put behind bars if you’re caught with a joint. Two ounces or less is a misdemeanor and can land you 180 days in jail and a $2000 fine. Anything over four ounces is considered a felony.

And if you think trafficking in Texas could make you big money, you’re probably right. In Dallas, an ounce of chronic on the street goes for $250 or more. On average, Texans who love quality weed pay around $325 an ounce. Get caught with 5-50 pounds though and you’ll face a mandatory minimum sentence of 2 years, with the possibility of doing 10. You can also be fined up to $10,000.

Possession of hash and other concentrates come with laws that are even stricter. Get caught with less than one ounce of concentrates, you’ll get an automatic felony, 180 days-2 years in jail, and fines that can hit $10,000. Manufacture or delivery of more than 400g of concentrates could get you 10 years to life.

“Don’t Mess with Texas” is the motto of this southwestern state. When it comes to cannabis, Texas seems to be sticking to their guns.

Jen Keehn

About the author: Jen Keehn is a Colorado-based writer focused on inspiring others to live their best lives. She writes regularly about recreational and medical cannabis, holistic health, addiction, and psychedelic therapy.