Texas weed laws are some of the most conservative remaining in the country. Though certain forms of weed are legal in the Lone Star, it isn’t totally clear what those forms are, even to lawmakers and law enforcement. Texas legislators legalized hemp farming, but they have not yet legalized cannabis. Given that hemp and high-THC cannabis smell and look the same, this has resulted in confusion and the stubborn pursuit of cannabis convictions—even when the defendants are in compliance with hemp laws.
Here’s the skinny: Texas has legalized limited forms of cannabis for medical use, but recreational cannabis remains prohibited. Hemp farming is legal with this caveat—law enforcement officials do not have a way to test for THC content and are also unwilling to let cannabis cases go, so there is a chance that lawfully conducting a hemp operation can still be interrupted by the police.
Qualifying Debilitating Medical Conditions
Patients who are permanent residents of Texas and who have been diagnosed with at least one of the following conditions by a qualified physician may be eligible to participate in the Compassionate Use Program:
- A seizure disorder
- Multiple sclerosis
- Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis
- Terminal cancer
- An incurable neurodegenerative disease
Possession and Purchasing Limits
In order to receive a low-THC cannabis prescription, patients must find a physician participating in the Compassionate User Registry of Texas. Patients can use the Texas Department of Public Safety’s search tool to find a cannabis-prescribing doctor. Unlike most other medical marijuana states, Texas does not require patients to register with the state, obtain a medical ID card, or pay an application fee.
The physicians are responsible for entering a patient’s information into the Compassionate Use Registry. Patients may use low-THC cannabis, or plant matter from the Cannabis sativa plant or its derivatives, for medical purposes. Low-THC cannabis is defined as weed containing no more than .5 percent THC. Adult and pediatric patients may participate in the program, but pediatric patients may require the consent of a legal guardian to do so. Medical marijuana can be legally purchased from a state-licensed dispensing organization, of which there are only 3:
- Compassionate Cultivation
- Surterra Texas
The patient’s physician will enter a prescription into the Compassionate Use Registry of Texas system. The patient or the patient’s legal guardian will be able to get their prescription filled at a state-licensed dispensary. Patients or their caregivers will need to provide a government-issued photo ID, the patient’s last name, the patient’s date of birth, and the last 5 digits of their social security number to make a purchase from a dispensary.
The possession and purchasing limits are dictated by the patient’s doctor. Patients cannot purchase or possess more cannabis than what their doctor has prescribed. The possession of cannabis containing more than .5 percent THC is a crime in Texas. If you are caught with cannabis containing THC, you can be charged with a misdemeanor or a felony, fined thousands of dollars, and placed in prison for months or years. In fact, the possession of 400 grams of THC concentrates can land a person in prison for life.
Smokeable cannabis is prohibited in Texas. Patients are permitted to use the following cannabis products:
- Topical treatments
Cannabis can only be consumed in private residences. The consumption of any cannabis product containing more than 0.5 percent THC is illegal in Texas.
Cannabis Transport and Delivery
The safest choice for a patient is to transport their cannabis in their trunk and to keep their prescription on them. Cannabis is still illegal in Texas, and since law enforcement officers cannot distinguish low-THC from high-THC cannabis without testing it, there is a chance that a law-abiding medical marijuana patient may be arrested if their cannabis product is found in their vehicle. Cannabis delivery is available through state-licensed dispensaries.
Driving While Intoxicated
Driving while intoxicated (DWI) in Texas is illegal. According to Texas law, intoxication is demonstrated by the loss of normal mental or physical faculties. Specifically, the law states that “not having the normal use of mental or physical faculties by the introduction of alcohol, a controlled substance, a drug, a dangerous drug, a combination of two or more of those substances, or any other substances into the body” can result in a DWI conviction. Since there is no THC road test, police officers will use observation and field tests to determine marijuana impairment. A first offense can result in the following penalties:
- A fine of up to $2,000
- Up to 180 days in jail
- Suspension of a driver’s license for up to 1 year
- A $1,000-$2,000 fee for three years to retain your driver’s license
The penalties get more severe with each additional offense.
Traveling with cannabis across state lines is illegal according to Federal and state law. However, it is technically legal for farmers to carry hemp across state lines if that hemp was cultivated in compliance with the 2018 Farm Bill. However, it’s still a risky move because it is almost impossible to distinguish hemp from high-THC cannabis since they can smell and look the same.
Personal cannabis cultivation is prohibited in Texas. The only legal way to obtain cannabis is to purchase it from a state-licensed dispensing organization.
Texas Weed Laws: A Timeline
2015 – The Texas Compassionate Use Act is enacted by the Texas Legislature. The law mandates the state to create a registry of epilepsy physicians who can prescribe low-THC cannabis to patients with intractable epilepsy. 2017 – Texas lawmakers enacted HB 3703, a bill that allows additional conditions to be added to the list of qualifying debilitating medical conditions. 2019 – Gov. Greg Abbot legalizes the farming of hemp, or industrial-use Cannabis sativa containing less than .3 percent THC.