About a year ago I attended an annual conference of Texas prosecutors in South Padre Island, Texas. At this conference, a legal expert from Colorado discussed the issues his state was facing in effectively enforcing the law that made cannabis legal and rained down tourism money from legal sales. Netflix recently released a CNN series called High Profits which highlighted a couple named Brian Rogers and Caitlin McGuire who owned a dispensary in Colorado on the eve of retail sale legalization. Not only is it a fascinating show, but it clearly illustrates how even after a majority of the populace votes one way (to legalize the sale of retail cannabis in Breckenridge, CO), there was immediate backlash for the people on the brink of making their illegal business legal. For more information on how this saga played out in Colorado, check out this article.
In Texas, however, the change has been a bit more incremental. June 2015 was historic because Governor Gregg Abbott signed the Compassionate Use Program into law, making it legal for doctors to prescribe a specific type of hemp oil to ailing patients suffering from chronic pain. Advocacy groups want the Lone Star State to catch up to public sentiment. A 2015 poll conducted by The University of Texas and Texas Tribune in 2015 showed 68% of Texans support reduced penalties for low-level marijuana possession.
Some local municipalities have reduced penalties for personal possession of marijuana to make it a Class C misdemeanor (essentially a ticket). So what does this mean? Is marijuana legal in Texas? Absolutely not. It can still land you in jail and cost money to defend against criminal allegations. However, the tide is slowly turning in the direction of legalization, and it is simply a matter of time before Texas joins the dozens of other states that have legalized medical or recreational marijuana use. The law reflects the mores and standards of the people, and a growing majority of people in this state (and nationwide) simply believe it is not good use of tax dollars to prosecute marijuana users who are not in the drug business.
I'll be keeping my eye on this issue because it has caused many people a great deal of grief because of the disproportionate amount of prosecutions of people of color for drug use and possession. Things are changing, but the law in Texas has not yet caught up to the times, so if you've had a marijuana possession case dismissed or no-billed, and you need to clear up your criminal record, feel free to give us a call. I'd be happy to discuss your options so you can move on with your life.