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Marijuana Laws In Texas Today — A Criminal Defense Lawyer’s Perspective on the Eve of the 2014 DFW Marijuana March

Marijuana laws here in Texas are tough. Over the years I’ve seen many clients come through our doors who haven’t been that mixed up with marijuana or grass or pot or weed but they’ve still faced some pretty stiff sentences under either Texas statutes or federal law. Marijuana cases can mean a real defense fight here in Texas courts. (For more on marijuana defense in Texas, go here.)

There may be different ballgame for Texas marijuana defense soon, though.

These days, we’re seeing state marijuana laws changing all over the place and there are lots of people who’d like to see Texas marijuana laws change, too. There’s pressure to lighten up on marijuana sentencing as well as legalizing marijuana in Texas – all for a number of reasons.

For Texas marijuana criminal defense attorneys, this is good news because we’ve seen a lot of people whose lives have been ruined over a relatively small amount of pot as well as defendants who’ve ended up sentenced for many more years in prison than others who have been convicted of seriously violent and destructive crimes. It’s unfairness of epidemic proportions; for details check out last fall’s report, “A Living Death: Life without Parole for Nonviolent Offenses,” by the ACLU that gives lots of examples of amazingly small crimes (such as marijuana charges) that have resulted in life sentences for defendants all across the country.

May 3, 2014: Global Marijuana March in Fort Worth Sponsored by DFW NORML – Texas Weed Laws

In a few weeks, the local NORML branch (of which I am a supporter as a member of NORML for many years) will join with over 800 cities around the world in promoting marijuana deregulation and the legalization of marijuana as either something to be used for medicinal purposes or for recreational use.

The 2014 Global Marijuana March will be held in Fort Worth at Federal Plaza. There’s a festival beginning at noon and a march later that afternoon. It’s a free event designed to promote the reduction or removal of cannabis criminal laws in Texas.

April 2014 Push in Washington, D.C. to Change Federal Marijuana Laws

This week, proponents for decriminalization of cannabis went to the nation’s capital to push for change of federal marijuana laws. Specifically, the group met with members of Congress to try and move forward changes in federal law that would block the federal government from curtailing states in both the passing and the implementation of state medical-marijuana laws.

There’s a big need to deal with federal laws if any state wants to open and build a success marijuana industry within its borders. And this isn’t something that’s of interest only to places like Colorado or California, where state legislatures have already passed laws allowing marijuana to be grown and sold for medicinal purposes or recreational use, it is something of interest to many Texans.

Marijuana is a Schedule 1 substance according to the Controlled Substances Act, a federal law that defines weed as having no medicinal value and criminalizes it alongside other illegal drugs. Eric Holder’s testimony this week before the House Judiciary Oversight Committee doesn’t lend much hope that this is going to change anytime soon, either.

Moreover, under current federal law it is illegal to grow marijuana. These federal grow statutes fly in the face of laws passed in states like California, etc., and it’s a conflict that poses a big problem for things like banks, where they may want to have new marijuana clients on one side but have to deal with federal regulators on the other. To the Justice Department, for instance, it’s a form of money laundering for a bank to take deposits from a marijuana grow farm no matter how legal that farm might be under state law.

Push to Welcome Marijuana Here in Texas

There’s been a steady push to allow Texas to have its own legalized marijuana industry. One reason is the more states that pass laws allowing for a statewide marijuana market, the more pressure can be brought on Congress to change current federal laws outlawing pot farms and the marijuana industry.

Another reason that is moving many to promote changing Texas’ marijuana laws is money. It’s argued that allowing people to grow marijuana and to buy marijuana in Texas legally, either for medicinal purposes or for recreational use, will help Texas farmers by providing them another cash crop. A crop that could evolve into other profitable ventures, as well, since hemp is a viable textile used in making all sorts of things (shoes, clothing, fabric, etc.).

Practically speaking, Texas is experiencing a major drought and marijuana needs lots of water — maybe farmers wouldn’t find cannabis a profitable venture. Also, at least so far, states aren’t seeing the big tax revenues that were predicted once marijuana laws were changed (this year, Colorado’s revenue is 13% below projections).

Finally, even if Texas did get legalized marijuana in some form and the Texas Legislature passed laws allowing for Texas farmers to grow weed as a legitimate crop, right alongside strawberries, cotton, peaches, and more, and the drought ended, there’s still a big concern that I have that the federal authorities would continue arresting people on pot charges just as much if not more than they do now.

It’s my opinion that we are going to see federal prosecutions of marijuana farms for violations of environmental protection laws (see my earlier post on this here) and if Texas were to legalize pot farms, we’d have EPA agents roaming around doing spot inspections for things like illegal use of rodenticides and pesticides etc., just like we see federal agents searching for illegal grows now.

Bottom line for Texas Criminal Defense Lawyers and Marijuana? It’s going to be a long time before people aren’t getting arrested here in Texas for some sort of marijuana violation and the two battlefields of state law and federal law aren’t going away anytime soon.

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