State of Cannabis: Marijuana Penalties are Bigger in Texas


Everything is bigger in Texas, including marijuana penalties.
Everything is bigger in Texas, including marijuana penalties.

2016 is going to be a big year for cannabis. As a result, we are ranking the fifty states from worst to best on how they treat cannabis and those who consume it. Each of our State of Cannabis posts will analyze one state and our final post will crown the best state for cannabis. As is always the case, but particularly so with this series, we welcome your comments. This is our sixth post in the series and the following is a recap of where we are with the rankings, from worst (number 50) to this week’s number 45: Texas; 46. Kansas; 47. Alabama; 48. Idaho; 49. Oklahoma; 50. South Dakota


Criminal Law. Texas treats possession or sale of a small amount of marijuana as a misdemeanor. Possession of less than 2 ounces warrants a fine of up to $2,000 and 180 days (six months!) in jail. A person can earn those same penalties for gifting less than 7 grams of marijuana. If a person possesses between 2-4 ounces or is caught selling less than 7 grams, the penalties increase to up to a $4,000 fine and up to a year in jail.

A person can be charged with a felony for possession of any amount over 4 ounces or for selling or delivering marijuana in an amount greater than 7 grams. The following charges warrant a $10,000 fine plus potential jail time:

  • Possession of 4 ounces to 5 pounds or sale of 7 grams to 5 pounds earns a sentence between 180 days and 2 years
  • Possession or sale of 5-50 pounds earns a sentence between 2-10 years
  • Possession or sale of 50-2,000 pounds earns a sentence between 2-20 years
  • Possession of over 2,000 pounds earns a sentence between 5 years and life in prison, plus the fine increases to up to $50,000
  • Sale of over 2,000 pounds earns a sentence between 10 years and life in prison, plus the fine increases to up to $100,000.

The impact of these brutal laws are evident when you consider the sheer number of marijuana arrests in Texas. NORML reported (based on data from the FBI) that in 2012 72,562 people were arrested in Texas for marijuana with a whopping 97 percent of all marijuana convictions are for possession. To repeat, you can spend your life in prison for possessing cannabis in Texas.

Medical Cannabis. Texas Governor Greg Abbot signed the state’s medical marijuana law but implementation of the program has been painfully slow. The state is required to issue at least three medical marijuana licenses by 2017 and after its licensing and registry framework is in place, state officials will begin licensing cannabis cultivators and cannabis dispensaries to produce and sell medical marijuana products to qualified patients. The program will only allow for one qualifying condition to prescribe marijuana: intractable epilepsy. The program requires doctors to prescribe marijuana but it is not at all clear that this can work at all since doctors are not allowed to prescribe marijuana, (the act of writing out a script that can be exchanged for medicine). In states that have legalized medical marijuana, doctors  simply recommend marijuana to patients; they do not prescribe it.

Potential Legalization. The Texas state legislature recently considered a bill to allow full legalization on religious grounds. Yes, you read that right. State representative David Simpson introduced a bill to fully legalize marijuana in the Lone Star state, arguing that because marijuana comes from God, the government should not ban it. In May of 2015, this bill made it past the house.

According to a recent poll, 46 percent of Texans support legalizing marijuana with 50 percent against it. Decriminalization garners more support, with 57 percent in favor of leniency for those caught with less than an ounce of pot.

The cost of enforcing its uber-strict criminal cannabis laws led the Daily Texan to post an op-ed arguing for decriminalization on monetary grounds:

[T]he question of whether or not to decriminalize the drug is one about economics — about what we as a state want to spend our money on — and not one about crime or safety.  The cost of incarcerating those arrested for simple possession of the drug is simply too high to continue such a harsh policy. According to a recent Gallup poll, for the first time in history a majority of Americans favor the legalization of marijuana for recreational use — in other words, it’s obvious that times are changing.

BottomlineThough it is surprising that the Texas legislature is actually considering a bill to legalize marijuana, it is not surprising that bill has yet to become law. In the meantime Texas will likely continue to imprison a huge number of marijuana users each year and will continue to be listed on the the wrong side of our rankings.



11 responses to “State of Cannabis: Marijuana Penalties are Bigger in Texas”

  1. In the State of Texas we are ruled by an elite group of extreme conservatives who are nothing more than Christian jihadists. They know that the constitution forbids the establishment of a religion so instead of calling themselves what they truly are they use a euphemism. They truly have one God and that is business that shoves huge amounts of bribe moneys up their rectum. Lots of people like to think they are just dumb asses but they are truly smart demonic educated apostate apostles for extreme Christianity.

    • Hello Mr. Mayor, I am a true Christian raised in the (Baptist) faith and been taught all my life that Marijuana was bad… I disagree totally with what I was brought up in believing. I live in Alabama and yes u r right about some people but not all Christians that doesn’t want MM. Myself, I see where it only helps people. Just wanted to share with you that even though I am a Christian, I stand up for MM.

      • Thank you Tammy..”Their is no intrinsic evil nor moral failure in the responsible consumption of Cannabis”

  2. So glad to be out of that hell hole I had to spend 25 years growing up in. Stupidest, most insouciantly self-aggrandizing state of ignorance and cruelty; and proud of it. My best to all the people who have to live under that regime; I’m sorry, but maybe you can help change things there.

    • Yep, living in Alabama and most of the Southern States people will NEVER understand how useful Marijuana is.. This is the United States of America seems more like to me it should be the Divided States of America. It shouldn’t be a punishment to the people who really need it that happens to live in a backwards State. I wish I could move but being on disability, family, my husbands job, and financial problems will not allow us to move….SMH

  3. This article is very interesting to me. I happen to live in one of the States mentioned in the article that is way down the list for legalizing MM. As I have said before, some people think it’s fair to let each State vote on it. Well, seeing that I live in a backwards State I still have some hope thanks to Mr. Crumpton especially. He is running for a political office that provides him to make BIG TIME changes. However, this is the UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, NOT the DIVIDED STATES OF AMERICA. We are fighting to just allow a bill to pass where the people can vote either for it or against. Some people call it a “gateway drug” that is ridiculous to me. This so called “gateway drug” has helped many people get off the strong Narcotic medication, No overdosing, and it’s a plant that is grown. Not man made etc.

  4. Boycott these States, and put it in writing to their Governors, stuff their email and physical mail boxes to over flowing, look at what happened when Star Trek got pulled off the air…they won’t be able to stop the over flow. We freed our selves in Oregon, now this is a political movement of the People, and it can’t be stopped.

  5. The entire country of Canada will be selling marijuana over the counter in as little as 10 months. Mr Trump and Mr Sessions have a dilemma to consider.They must rapidly consider the decriminalization of marijuana because how is it possible to purchase in one state and cross into another state where it is a felony. Ronald Reagan was absolutely ignorant when he classified marijuana to be a class one felony same as herion and cocaine. He did so only under the pressure of the pharmaceutical industry and the millions of dollars he received. He has destroyed the life’s of millions by putting such ludicrous laws on the books. Marijuana and it’s various products have been proven to hold many medical properties.

  6. Longview, Texas 1973. Two 18 year old young men were arrested. Police Officers found several SEEDS in their vehicles ashtray. They were sentenced to life with no chance of parole. Lives ruined as they still are today. Woo-Hoo yea Texsucks! Teach us a lesson we’ll never forget!

  7. Thank you so much Daniel fight for us brother I will go to my fucking grave fighting so that every American no matter what the circumstance has the right to self medicate using cannabis

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