Articles Posted in Texas Marijuana Laws

With the passing of SB 339 in 2015, otherwise known as the “Texas Compassionate Use Act,” Texas joined more than three quarters of the states in establishing a medical marijuana program. However, many are unaware that prior to 2015, derivatives of marijuana were legal in the state. example-2-300x159

When Marijuana isn’t Marijuana


Under Texas law, marijuana is defined in the Texas Health and Public Safety Code as:

2017 Held a lot of promise for marijuana reform. Texans across the state and political spectrum flooded legislator’s offices and phones with a clear and concise message, “We want marijuana law reform now.” Unfortunately, as the session ended, it became clear that the Texas legislature was deaf to the voice of the Texas people.

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The Groundwork

The push for marijuana law reform during the 85th Texas Legislative session began back in 2016, when advocacy groups focused on laying the political groundwork for marijuana law reform. Advocacy groups worked hard to amend the Texas Republican Party platform[1] to call for a complete overhaul of the Texas Compassionate use act of 2015, Texas’s anemic medical marijuana program. Advocates also hit the streets supporting and donating to pro marijuana reform candidates during the 2016 election cycle. As 2016 ended, the groundwork for real reform had been laid, and advocates across the state were optimistically looking forward to the 2017 legislative cycle.

In September of 2016 the Austin American broke a surprising story to those who aren’t in the legal field[1]. The report found that in Texas’s largest populated counties, Dallas, Harris, Travis, Bexar, and Tarrant, over 40% of minor possession of marijuana cases where bring dismissed. The report also found that prosecutors where actively discouraging police arrest through policy or practice.

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Specifically, the report found that, since 2011 there has been a large upsurge in the number of dismissals from 9% on average overall in 2011 to 41% in 2016. Prosecutors quoted about this upsurge stated simple reason for the change in policy. “Jurors would look at us like we are crazy,” Travis County prosecutor Dan Hamre told the newspaper. “‘You are spending your time, our time and the court’s time on a small amount of personal marijuana?’ “[2]. The report identified changes in policies, that had lead to the upsurge, and highlighted the irregularity in these numbers across different counties.

Policy Changes, and Legal Changes

iStock_000009135835_ExtraSmallOn May 16th, 2016, the Texas GOP signaled a profound change of stance with regard to marijuana laws in Texas. Thanks to the dedicated work of many activists within the Republican Party, the State GOP adopted two resolutions with profound implications for the future of marijuana law in the Lone Star State.

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The first resolution is the most straightforward, and the least controversial step in marijuana law reform. The plank was adopted with 71% of those in favor. The resolution reads as such:

End Prohibition - Legalize Marijuana
With 2017 fast approaching and prospective state representatives competing for votes, a Texas sized problem remains unaddressed in the Texas medical marijuana program. In 2015, The Texas legislature passed Senate Bill 339 authored by Sen. Kevin Eltife (R-Tyler) and Stephanie Klick (R-Fort Worth).[1]

SB 339, otherwise known as the Texas Compassionate Use Act, was a start on the road to marijuana reform for Texas. The bill was the first formal recognition from Texas that marijuana has medical use. The bill was inspired by Dr. Sanjay Gupta’s “weed” documentary series highlighting the efficacy of high CBD marijuana strains for treating epilepsy in children. With the combined efforts of medical activists and strong pressure from the Epilepsy Foundation, the bill passed in the waning days of the 2015 session and was signed by Governor Abbott.

Overview of The Compassionate Use Act

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Live Podcast Interview with Chris Legier @ Show 1002

Guest: Gilbert Garcia, Attorney Gilbert G. Garcia Law Firm

Topics Include:

dreamstime_xs_22155154.jpgDespite a relatively low crime rate during the last decade, between 1970 and 2010, Texas’ prison population increased by 995%, even though the state’s population only increased by 124% during that same time period. However, Texas’ record-setting incarceration rates are not accidental–meaning this trend can still be reversed. Critics of excessive legislation and prosecutorial strategies such as mandatory minimum sentences stress that our excessive prison population is a direct result of the Texas Legislature constantly criminalizing new acts. Over the last decade, the Legislature has created an average of 40 new felonies during each legislative session while simultaneously increasing penalties for existing crimes. At present, Texas recognizes over 2,500 felony crimes.

Another prime contributor to Texas’ prison population explosion is unarguably the U.S.’s failed war on drugs. At this point, we can all agree that “prison therapy” is hugely ineffective in helping defendants cope with addiction. Considering the fact that over 70,000 people both enter and leave Texas state prisons every year, only 22% of which have been convicted of a violent crime. It should be imperative that we are taking steps to treat and reform inmates during their served time, rather than hoping that imprisonment itself is enough to deter addiction and future bad behavior. Treating a public health problem as a criminal problem is not going to end substance addiction, especially when past imprisonment keeps a person disenfranchised within their community, often without the ability to find a job or place to live. And all too often, the communities that are most impacted by this injustice are young minorities, with a new study finding that by age 23, 49% of black males and 44% of Hispanic males have been arrested, compared with only 38% of white males.

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iStock_000011009457_ExtraSmall.jpgPresident Obama thinks marijuana is no more dangerous than alcohol and is less dangerous in terms of its impact on consumers. In a January 2014 interview with the New Yorker, the president compared marijuana to other vices such as alcohol and cigarettes, stating “As has been well documented, I smoked pot as a kid, and I view it as a bad habit and a vice, not very different from the cigarettes that I smoked as a young person up through a big chunk of my adult life. I don’t think it is more dangerous than alcohol.”

While the president doesn’t find the use of marijuana alarming, he is very bothered by the fact that minorities, especially minority youth, have a radically disproportionate rate of arrest and imprisonment. “Middle-class kids don’t get locked up for smoking pot, and poor kids do,” Obama said. “African-American kids and Latino kids are more likely to be poor and less likely to have the resources and the support to avoid unduly harsh penalties…we should not be locking up individual users for long stretches of jail time when some of the folks who are writing those laws have probably done the same thing.” A new study released this month supports the president’s concerns, finding that nearly half of all black males are arrested by the time they reach the age of 23.

What is even more surprising is that notoriously conservative Texas governor Rick Perry has also shown a recent liberalized attitude towards marijuana. Perry, speaking to the World Economic Forum in Switzerland, defended Colorado and Washington state’s vote to legalize the drug, saying it is a matter of states’ rights. Although Perry sidestepped questions of whether he supported the decriminalization of marijuana, he promoted Texas’ drug courts, which offer treatment instead of incarceration for non-violent offenders, as an example to other states and nations.

iStock_000001725183XSmall.jpgA recent report by the Partnership at Drug Free, formerly known as the Partnership for a Drug Free America, found a solid majority of those polled by the organization itself, 52 percent, favor marijuana decriminalization and a vast majority, 70 percent, favor medical marijuana. The Partnership interviewed 1,603 adults. The majority of these adults (1,200) are parents of children who are between 10 and 19 years old. The report found 72 percent of mothers and 67 percent of fathers support medical marijuana.

One may be surprised that an organization focused on combating teenage drug use is publicizing report results showing favorable parental views on marijuana law reform. A deeper look into the results of marijuana law reform reveals that marijuana reform could help combat teenage marijuana use and thus align with the goals of the Partnership. For example, since Colorado passed marijuana laws, marijuana usage among Colorado teenagers has gone down. Colorado, probably the most marijuana friendly state in the nation, has a teenage marijuana use rate that is below the national average. Despite the beliefs of marijuana reform opponents that claim pro-marijuana laws will increase adolescent marijuana use, a recent report revealed there is no visible link between states legalizing medical marijuana and children increasing marijuana consumption.

The Partnership has had a noticeable history of focusing especially on the dangers of marijuana, even though the harms caused by alcohol, tobacco, and pharmaceuticals far outweigh the harms of marijuana use. Past funding sources of the Partnership may explain the lack of particular focus on drugs more destructive than marijuana. According to Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR), the Partnership has accepted funding from numerous tobacco, alcohol, and pharmaceutical companies. These companies include the Budweiser, Michelob, Busch Beer Company: Anheuser Busch, the Marlboro and Virginia Slims company: Philip Morris, the Camel, Salem, Winston cigarettes company: R.J. Reynolds, as well as firms associated with pharmaceuticals like Bristol Meyers-Squibb, Merck & Company, and Proctor & Gamble. The Partnership reportedly ceased accepting alcohol and tobacco funding, but continues to receive support from major pharmaceutical firms, despite the fact that pharmaceutical drugs cause the most overdose deaths compared to all other drugs.

iStock_000009135835_ExtraSmall.jpgIn Texas, Marijuana is an illegal substance that is subject to forfeiture by the state. While this may be of no surprise, you may not be familiar with the forfeiture process and how it works. The government has different modes and methods of dealing with controlled substances. Some of these processes do not even require a court order, they occur automatically due to statutory regulation. This article discusses and describes the process the government implements after it seizes controlled substances, such as marijuana.

Let’s look at a hypothetical traffic stop situation. A driver gets pulled over and the officer looks in his back seat and sees a sizable amount of marijuana. After the driver gets arrested, the officer seizes the marijuana and seals it in an evidence bag. It is at this point that the seized marijuana is put into the custody of the police. This entire process, from seizure, to storage, record keeping, court, and then finally destruction is called the “Chain of Custody” (COC). There are very detailed and strict rules regulating how the police can handle evidence while it is in their custody. If they break one of these rules, the “chain” of custody is broken and the compromised evidence becomes subject to objection and scrutiny.

Assuming the COC is maintained, the case will end with a verdict. The seized marijuana is then subject to “summary destruction”. Tex. Health & Safety Code Ann. § 481.154 . Summary destruction is a process that differs among departments, but there are three certain rules that process must follow: “(1) more than one person to witness the destruction of the property or plants; (2) the preparation of an inventory of the property or plants destroyed; and (3) the preparation of a statement that contains the names of the persons who witness the destruction and the details of the destruction.” Id. After the seized marijuana is destroyed, “a document prepared under a rule adopted under this section must be completed, retained, and made available for inspection by the director.” Id. With this document, the seized marijuana is recorded and properly disposed of per statute.