Texas Marijuana Possession Laws Primer
Cannabis penalties depend on how much you have and why
on May 9, 2018
Updated on April 6, 2022
Although decriminalization and legalization laws in some states have passed in recent years and are continuing to change, it is still illegal to possess, sell, grow, and use marijuana in Texas. “A client who is charged with possession of marijuana faces jail time, a conviction on their record, fines and the loss of their license to drive,” says Benson Varghese, a criminal defense attorney at Varghese Summersett in Fort Worth.
Criminal Penalties for Possession
The penalties depend on how much marijuana someone had and whether they sold or delivered it to others. Marijuana possession can be charged as anything from a Class B misdemeanor, which is punishable by up to 180 days in jail and a fine of up to $2,000 to a felony punishable by up to 99 years in jail and a fine of up to $50,000.
The sale of marijuana can be charged as a misdemeanor or a felony, depending again on how much was actually sold and whether it was sold to a child. Selling marijuana to a minor is a second-degree felony, punishable by up to 20 years in jail and a fine of up to $10,000.
It is also illegal to possess marijuana paraphernalia, such as bongs and vaporizers. Paraphernalia possession is a Class C misdemeanor. The penalty for this conviction is a fine of up to $500. Selling or possessing paraphernalia with the intent to sell it is a Class A misdemeanor, which can result in a fine of up to $4,000 and up to one year in jail for a convicted individual.
In Texas, there are mandatory minimum sentence laws in place for felony-level marijuana convictions, even for a first offense. This means that if you are arrested by law enforcement and convicted of certain criminal charges, the judge cannot opt to sentence you to a shorter jail term or a smaller fine than the minimum sentence included in the law.
What Can I Do if I am Arrested for Marijuana Possession?
“It’s important to hire an experienced attorney who is well-versed on the marijuana laws in their state and who is familiar with legal and legislative issues,” says Varghese. “A marijuana conviction could have collateral consequences that could affect employment, housing, student loans—the list goes on.” The ideal goal, he adds, is that you obtain an outcome that doesn’t result in jail time or conviction on a criminal record.
He advises his clients to follow the conditions of their bond to the letter, stay out of trouble and refrain from alcohol and drug use because you may be subject to drug testing. “We will then review the case against them looking for weaknesses in the stop, the arrest, the search, and the analysis of the drugs,” Varghese says. “Depending on the facts and circumstances, there are a number of defense strategies for marijuana possession charges.”
One example of a defense is a lack of reasonable suspicion for the stop, which can make the evidence moot. “We have also successfully challenged dog sniffs,” Varghese says. “For example, an officer cannot prolong a traffic stop just to get a drug dog to the scene, and sometimes, handlers intentionally tell the dog to alert.
“In some cases, it’s necessary to attack the credibility of the lab or the police officers involved in the case,” he continues. “Labs have come under scrutiny in recent years for dry-labbing, falsifying information, not following protocol and lack of training or accreditation. Not to mention, more than 6,800 officers have been arrested in the state of Texas for various crimes.”