Ft. Worth Marijuana Posession Defense Attorney
Marijuana for Medicinal Use in Texas
The federal government recently announced that it would no longer prosecute people for using, prescribing, or distributing marijuana for medical purposes in states where it is legal. Texas legislators are considering a bill that would permit seriously ill patients to raise a medical necessity defense to charges of possessing marijuana for medical use.
Texas does not currently consider marijuana to be a medicinal drug. Consequently, marijuana users can only be recognized as recreational users. Individuals found in possession will be charged with a crime.
Marijuana in Texas: Fines, Penalties and Consequences
The state of Texas has fairly stiff penalties for marijuana. Most of the penalties for possessing or selling marijuana depend on the amount of the drug that is being held or sold.
Possession of two ounces or less of marijuana is a Class B misdemeanor that carries a sentence of up to six months in jail and a $2,000 fine. Many misdemeanor marijuana defendants receive probation.
Possession of between two and four ounces is a Class A misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in jail and a $4,000 fine. Possession of between four ounces up to one pound and from one pound up to five pounds of pot is referred to as a state jail felony. This is penalized by between 180 days and 2 years in a state facility with up to a $10,000 fine.
The sale of marijuana is treated differently. A sale to a minor, for example, is a felony punished by up to 20 years in prison and up to a $10,000 fine. A sale of 1/4 of an ounce or less is a Class A misdemeanor which is punishable by up to a year in jail and a $4,000 fine.
With increasing amounts of marijuana sold, the penalties increase all the way up to a maximum of 99 years in prison and a $100,000 fine. If any marijuana offense takes place within 1,000 feet of a school, the penalties are increased due to the proximity of children.
Moreover, Texas lawmakers passed a bill in 2007 which permits law enforcement officers to issue citations instead of arresting adults who possess less than four ounces of marijuana. Although police officers now have the discretion to issue a citation rather than taking people into custody, offenders are still subject to the same penalties.
The Future of Medicinal Marijuana in Texas
Texas could join the 14 states that allow the medicinal use of marijuana. The Texas legislature currently has a bill (House Bill 164) that would create an affirmative defense to marijuana possession. The bill would allow doctors to make oral or written recommendations that, for a particular patient, the potential benefits outweigh the health risks. As of February 2009, the bill was assigned to the Public Health Committee in the Texas House of Representatives.
HB 164 contains provisions that, if arrested, the medical marijuana patient would need to show that a physician recommended marijuana use. This would be an affirmative defense to charges stemming from the medicinal use of marijuana. If a court accepts the defense, patients could then avoid conviction, probation, fines and incarceration.
The legislation would still permit the arrest of medical marijuana patients. The bill includes a clause protecting doctors from disciplinary action for recommending medical marijuana to their patients.
Passage of HB 164 would provide modest protections for patients who have been authorized by their doctor to use marijuana for medicinal purposes. It would also allow them to present evidence regarding their medical use of cannabis in a court of law. Additionally, the passage of HB 164 would save taxpayers’ money on prosecution and incarceration.
A statewide Texas poll in 2004 showed that 75 percent favored allowing patients to use marijuana medicinally if their doctor approved. If HB 164 becomes law, patients would be helped by marijuana’s ability to ease chronic pain. Patients could also be helped in controlling chronic nausea and glaucoma, among other benefits.
Critics argue that allowing medical marijuana would make it harder for police to enforce other marijuana laws and would be a step toward complete legalization of pot. Opponents also argue that there are legal medications available which can replace any medicinal value that might come from marijuana.
Some experts contend that the decision by the federal government to not prosecute users or providers of marijuana who are not in violation of state law could promote the spread of medical use of marijuana. It remains to be seen whether Texas will opt to allow patients to legally benefit from marijuana’s reputed therapeutic benefits.
Consult with an Attorney
Due to the wide range of severity of marijuana penalties in Texas, it is useful to have an experienced attorney on your side. If you have been arrested or charged for a marijuana offense, contact a Bedford marijuana posession defense lawyer to protect your legal rights and learn about your options.