Marijuana possession and distribution is illegal under both Texas and U.S. law. Texas law came first, with a 1919 law that banned possession of marijuana. Texas wasn’t the first state to ban marijuana, but it was in the handful of states that prohibited marijuana before the 1920s. The United States banned marijuana in the Marihuana Tax Act of 1937.

No Texas Changes Statewide
While many states have since softened their stances on marijuana, there have been no changes in Texas marijuana laws. Other states have medical marijuana programs. Some have even made marijuana a civil offense with great public support.

Texas isn’t having any of that. Marijuana is still just as illegal as ever in Texas and offenders can even face mandatory minimum jail terms. Texas even prohibits K2, spice, and other synthetic marijuana imitations. It’s even illegal to possess marijuana paraphernalia.

Local Policies
Even though marijuana remains illegal statewide, counties and cities are trying their own unique stances to respond to growing acceptance of the use of marijuana. Harris County is one example. In Harris county, if you’re caught with less than four ounces of marijuana, you can avoid criminal charges if you take an education class within ninety days of your offense. If you complete the class, you never face criminal charges.

There is also a legislative effort to decriminalize marijuana. Efforts to decriminalize marijuana in Texas have yet to garner much support. In any event, marijuana remains very much illegal in Texas, even in locations where law enforcement and district attorneys’ offices choose to offer leniency or diversion programs.

Offenses and Penalties – Possession Charges
Possession of the smallest amounts of marijuana is punishable by up to 180 days in jail and a $2,000 fine. You can also receive a term of probation. The state can also suspend your driver’s license for up to 180 days.

As you possess increasing amounts of marijuana, the possible penalties grow. If you have more than two ounces of marijuana, you face a Class A misdemeanor that’s punishable by up to one year in jail. It comes with a $4,000 fine and the same potential license suspension.

If you have more than four ounces of marijuana, you can face mandatory minimum incarceration. That means that the judge has no choice but to put you in jail or prison for a certain period of time. At the largest amounts, possession of more than 2,000 pounds of marijuana is a felony punishable by not less than five and not more than ninety-nine years in prison.

Offenses and Penalties – Distribution Offenses
Penalties for distributing marijuana are even more strict than they are for possession. Giving away less than a quarter ounce of marijuana is a Class B misdemeanor that’s punishable by up to 180 days in jail. If you sell the same amount, it’s a Class A misdemeanor that can bring up to one year in jail. The most serious distribution brings a mandatory minimum sentence of ten years in prison. You face enhanced penalties if you sell to a minor or near a school.

There are several defenses that are still valid in marijuana cases. The police should follow search and seizure laws during any investigation. They should also read you your Miranda rights before interrogating you about the charges. If they don’t, the result can be dismissal of your charges. The police also need to test the substance to make sure that it’s marijuana and weigh it properly.

Because of the widespread, but inconsistent use of diversion and leniency programs, it can be helpful to work with a knowledgeable attorney if you’re facing these types of charges. An attorney likely knows what diversion programs are available to you. Taking advantage of a diversion program can mean the difference between a conviction on your criminal record and no record at all.