The New 2016 Marijuana Laws: What It Means for Texas
This month, several states had marijuana on their ballots. Texas wasn’t among them, of course. As a result of these November elections, we’ve got more states getting ready to offer medical marijuana in their jurisdictions as well as recreational marijuana within their boundaries.
A very exciting result for pot proponents around the country as well as here in Texas. Many argue that for Texas, it’s just a matter of time.
That may be. However, from a criminal defense perspective it’s important Texans understand what is – and is not – going on. You need to know what the changing marijuana laws mean for you, right here.
Let’s be clear: Pot can still get you busted in Texas.
Changing Marijuana Laws
We’ve discussed the impact of changing state marijuana laws before, when states began easing their weed laws a few years back, in posts that include:
- Heroin and Marijuana In Texas: What’s The Federal Government Doing?
- Texas Legislature Considers New Marijuana Law That Would Make Punishment for Marijuana Possession of One Ounce or Less a $500 Fine With No Jail Time;
- Texas Marijuana Laws: Strict Drug Laws Now as Marijuana is Absolutely Illegal in Texas, But Will This Change and Can You Still Be Arrested for Pot in Texas?
Remember now, we’re just looking at STATE laws, not the federal statutes.
List of Medical Marijuana States
With the November 2016 elections, the following states will allow medical marijuana use:
- District of Columbia
- New Hampshire
- New Jersey
- New Mexico
- New York
- North Dakota
- Rhode Island
List of Recreational Marijuana States
The following states will allow recreational use of marijuana:
- District of Columbia
What is Medical Marijuana?
Using marijuana for medicinal purposes usually means ingesting marijuana in order to reduce pain. It is a pain medication.
Doctors in states that allow medical marijuana can issue prescriptions for marijuana just like they can for other drugs, like OxyContin or Vicodin. Usually, the patient receives a “marijuana ID card,” which can be shown at an authorized weed dispensary.
What is Recreational Marijuana?
Recreational marijuana is just what the name implies: weed available for the user’s enjoyment. It’s available in much the same way that alcohol is sold in a liquor store or at a corner bar.
It’s sold in a dispensary. In Colorado, The Green Solution even offers a sophisticated online sales site where you place your order over the web. Then you visit their nearest location at your convenience for pick-up.
You do have to be of legal age in that state, and provide proper legal identification (like a driver’s license) upon request. Plus, in states that allow recreational marijuana it’s legal to grow your own for your own personal enjoyment.
The Federal Government and Marijuana Today
State laws are one thing; federal statutes are another. Regardless of changing state laws, the federal government still classifies marijuana as a Schedule 1 drug. Marijuana use is a federal felony crime. Other Schedule 1 drugs under the current federal standards are:
- lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD)
- methylenedioxymethamphetamine (ecstasy)
Right now, anyone smoking marijuana in any state in the union is doing so in violation of federal drug laws. They are ingesting a Schedule 1 drug, which means serious felony time upon conviction. (Read more about Schedule 1 felonies here.)
Enforcement by the Federal Authorities
The thing is – President Obama is the Commander in Chief of the federal law enforcement agencies and the federal prosecutors. He does not want them to go after marijuana usage.
So, while federal laws remain valid on the books, they aren’t being enforced. Now.
What about when President Trump takes office?
Well, things could change. He might keep the same plan in place. He might decide that medical marijuana is not to be the basis of arrest, but recreational pot is going back to being a basis for federal arrest and prosecution. Maybe he’ll want all federal pot laws enforced. We don’t know what Trump will do regarding enforcement of federal marijuana laws.
State Arrests for Marijuana in Texas and Elsewhere
Recently, a research study revealed more people are arrested for possession of marijuana than for violent crimes. See, “Marijuana Arrests Outnumber Those for Violent Crimes, Study Finds” written by Timothy Williams and published on October 12, 2016, by the New York Times.
Of course, there are stories to tell. Defense lawyers have oodles of them. You may remember last year, when Wiz Khalifa got caught with pot over in El Paso and pled out with a $500 fine. Also, lots of Texas police officers may view small amounts of pot obviously for personal use as not worth the time and effort of a full-fledged arrest.
However, Texas remains Number One in the Nation for its harsh treatment of marijuana under its criminal laws. Most arrests made in this state are for marijuana possession according to FBI data and research compiled by NORML.
This means that in Texas, you can be arrested for marijuana under both state law and federal law. It’s totally illegal here. You can do hard time here for possession of a small amount of weed.
Texas Marijuana Revenue
Understandably, there are efforts right now in the Texas Legislature to decriminalize pot as well as passing other laws to free up marijuana use and access here. Whether or not they will be successful is not clear.
After all, marijuana is a big business. Consider the following:
- Drug cartels stand to lose a lot of cash flow if pot is made legal and accessible in Texas and elsewhere in the country. See, “Drug Cartels In North Texas: Big Business And Felony Crimes.”
- With asset forfeiture, making marijuana legal in Texas would mean that various government agencies would lose some sizable revenue, too. See, e.g., “Dallas Is A Marijuana Marketplace: Another Federal Marijuana Trafficking Bust As US Attorney John Bales Announces $1.7M Cash Seized, 17 People Arrested.”
Warning to Texans Excited About New Marijuana Laws
Here’s the bottom line. Marijuana is not legal in Texas. Period. If you choose to go to another state, say over the holidays, and recreational marijuana is available to you then you may want to partake.
When in Rome, you’re under Roman law. So if you are in Colorado over Christmas, then you may be able to smoke pot without fear of arrest because of Colorado’s recreational marijuana laws and the current federal position on enforcement of federal marijuana laws.
But don’t bring it back home with you. Just because you buy marijuana in a state that allows recreational use of weed does not mean that it’s legal to have in your possession on the airplane, or in your car, or back in your dorm or apartment here in Texas. It’s not.
For a scary story on what can happen to you if you do this, read, “Marijuana Tourism And Texas: The Lesson Of Jacob Lavoro.”
For more information, check out our web resources as well as Michael Lowe’s Case Results and his in-depth article, “SYNTHETIC DRUG BUSTS: FEDERAL ARRESTS FOR FAKE POT AND DESIGNER DRUGS THAT ARE LEGAL UNDER STATE LAW.”
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