Understanding Drug Possession Laws in Texas 2024

Understanding Drug Possession Laws in Texas 2024

In Texas, drug possession laws are stringent and complex, reflecting the state’s commitment to combating drug-related offenses. As we head into 2024, it’s more important than ever for residents to understand these laws. When appropriate, residents can prepare a suitable defense.

Navigating the legal nuances of drug possession in Texas requires a detailed look into the state’s classification of controlled substances, the legal definitions of possession, and the potential repercussions of a conviction. Recent changes in legislation and shifting societal attitudes towards certain drugs also play a significant role in how these laws are applied and interpreted. 

This article aims to demystify these laws, providing a comprehensive guide to help individuals understand their rights in Texas. Whether you are facing charges or seeking to stay informed, this guide is a resource to help you understand the intricacies of Texas drug possession laws in 2024.

Classification of Controlled Substances in Texas

In Texas, the classification of controlled substances, which is in line with both federal and state regulations, categorizes drugs into different “Schedules” based on their potential for abuse and their accepted medical use. 

Schedule I Drugs

These substances are considered to have a high potential for abuse and no accepted medical use. This category includes drugs like heroin, LSD, and ecstasy. Possession of Schedule I drugs typically carries the most severe penalties due to their high potential for abuse and lack of medical necessity.

Schedule II Drugs

Schedule II drugs also have a high potential for abuse but may have some accepted medical uses with severe restrictions. Examples include cocaine, morphine, and certain potent opioids like oxycodone and fentanyl. Penalties for possession of these substances are also strict, though they may vary based on the drug’s medical applicability.

Schedule III Drugs

Drugs in this category have a lower potential for abuse compared to Schedule I and II substances and have accepted medical uses. They include products containing less than 90 milligrams of codeine per dosage unit, ketamine, and anabolic steroids. The penalties for possession are generally less severe than for Schedule I and II drugs.

Schedule IV and V Drugs

These substances have an even lower potential for abuse. Schedule IV drugs include prescription medications like Xanax and Valium, while Schedule V contains drugs that have a lower concentration of certain narcotics, often used for antitussive, analgesic, or antidiarrheal purposes.

Changes to Drug Possession Laws in Texas 2023

As we approach 2024, it’s important to recognize both the existing framework established in 2023 and any recent adjustments.

In 2023, Texas made several significant amendments to its schedules of controlled substances, affecting how various drugs are classified under state law. These changes are crucial for understanding the current legal landscape regarding drug possession:

  • Brorphine Added to Schedule I (Effective July 28, 2023): Brorphine, a potent opioid, was classified as a Schedule I substance.
  • Eutylone Moved to Schedule I (Effective July 28, 2023): Eutylone, a synthetic stimulant often found in “bath salts,” was also placed in Schedule I, reflecting concerns about its abuse potential.
  • Additions to Schedule I on May 19: Several other substances were added to Schedule I, including Amineptine, Methiopropamine, Mesocarb, and Zipeprol (May 19, 2023). These additions underscore the state’s ongoing efforts to regulate substances that have high abuse potential and no recognized medical use.
  • Ganaxolone Added to Schedule V: Ganaxolone, used in the treatment of seizures and other medical conditions, was added to Schedule V, indicating a lower potential for abuse. (Effective May 19, 2023)
  • Removal of Fenfluramine from Schedule IV (Effective May 19, 2023): Fenfluramine, previously a Schedule IV drug, was removed from the list of controlled substances, reflecting changes in its perceived abuse potential or medical utility.

These changes, part of Texas’s ongoing efforts to combat drug abuse while accommodating legitimate medical needs, significantly impact the legal implications of possessing these substances.

What Constitutes a Drug Possession Charge in Texas?

In Texas, a drug possession charge is defined by the state’s Controlled Substances Act as having “actual care, custody, control, or management” of an illegal substance. This broad definition encompasses both actual possession and constructive possession.

These distinctions in determining drug possession can be broken down as follows: 

  • Actual Possession: This occurs when the individual has physical control of the drug, such as carrying it in their pocket or a personal bag.
  • Constructive Possession: Constructive possession is more complex and occurs when the individual has control over the location of the drug, even if it’s not on their person. For example, having drugs in one’s car or home can constitute constructive possession.
  • Quantity: The amount of the substance in possession plays a crucial role in determining the severity of the charge. Larger quantities can lead to more serious charges, potentially indicating intent to distribute.
  • Type of Substance: The classification of the drug under the controlled substances schedule also significantly affects the charges. For instance, possession of a Schedule I substance typically results in more severe penalties compared to a Schedule IV or V substance.

The severity of a possession charge in Texas can vary significantly based on several factors, including the quantity of the substance, the type of substance as classified under the state’s controlled substances schedules, and the individual’s prior criminal history. 

The state’s legal framework treats drug possession charges with notable seriousness, reflecting its ongoing commitment to addressing drug-related offenses within its jurisdiction.

Penalties for Drug Possession in Texas

The Texas Health and Safety Code, Chapter 481, defines the penalties for drug possession in Texas under various penalty groups. Each group includes specific substances and assigns corresponding penalties based on the nature and amount of the controlled substance. 

Here’s an overview of these penalty groups:

Penalty Group 1

Texas code for Group 1 Drugs:

  • Includes opiates and opium derivatives like heroin, oxycodone, hydrocodone, and more.
  • Also encompasses cocaine, methamphetamine, ketamine, mescaline, and other similar substances.
  • Possession of substances in this group generally results in the most severe penalties, including a $10,000 fine and up to 99 years in prison, depending on the weight.

Penalty Group 1-A

Texas code for Group 1-A Drugs:

  • Specifically for lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) and its various forms.
  • Penalties are typically determined by the amount (by unit) rather than weight, given the potency and nature of LSD.

Penalty Group 2

Texas code for Group 2 Drugs:

  • Contains hallucinogens and other similar substances, including MDMA (ecstasy), phencyclidine (PCP), and amphetamines.
  • Penalties in this group can be severe, though they may vary compared to Group 1 substances.

Penalty Group 3

Texas code for Group 3 Drugs:

  • Encompasses substances that have a lower potential for abuse compared to Groups 1 and 2.
  • Includes drugs like Valium, Xanax, Ritalin, and anabolic steroids.
  • Penalties are generally less severe than in Groups 1 and 2 but still significant, especially for higher quantities.

Penalty Group 4

Texas code for Group 4 Drugs:

  • Contains compounds, mixtures, or preparations that have small amounts of narcotics, usually combined with medicinal ingredients.
  • Penalties are typically the least severe among all groups. They can still include jail time and fines, especially for larger amounts.

The specific penalties for each group vary based on the amount of the substance and the circumstances of the possession. They can range from fines and probation to lengthy prison sentences, particularly for higher quantities or more dangerous substances. 

Understanding these distinctions is crucial for anyone facing drug charges in Texas or those involved in the legal and healthcare profession.

Impact of Drug Possession Charges

The impact of drug possession charges can be profound and far-reaching, affecting various aspects of an individual’s life. Here are some key areas where these charges can have significant consequences:

  1. Criminal Record: A conviction for drug possession results in a criminal record, which can be a major obstacle in many areas of life. Employers, landlords, and educational institutions can access this record in background checks.
  2. Employment Opportunities: Many employers are hesitant to hire individuals with a criminal record, especially for positions of trust or responsibility. A drug possession charge can lead to job loss or difficulty finding employment.
  3. Educational Opportunities: Students may face disciplinary actions from their educational institution, including suspension or expulsion. Additionally, a drug conviction can make an individual ineligible for certain types of financial aid, scholarships, and educational opportunities.
  4. Housing Issues: A drug possession charge can make it more difficult to secure housing. Many landlords conduct criminal background checks and may be reluctant to rent to someone with a drug conviction.
  5. Social Stigma and Personal Relationships: The stigma associated with a drug charge can strain personal relationships with family, friends, and community members. It can lead to social isolation and impact mental health.
  6. Probation and Parole Requirements: If sentenced to probation or parole, individuals must comply with specific conditions. These include regular drug testing, meeting with a probation officer, and avoiding certain activities or areas.

Legal Defenses Against Drug Possession Charges

Legal defenses against drug possession charges can vary based on the specifics of each case. However, some common strategies often prove effective. It’s important to note that the viability of each defense depends on the evidence, circumstances of the arrest, and legal representation. 

Here are some common defenses:

Lack of Possession

One of the strongest defenses is arguing that the defendant did not actually possess the drugs. This can be applicable in cases of constructive possession where the drugs were found in a location accessible to multiple people.

Knowledge and Intent

The defense may assert that the defendant was unaware of the presence of the controlled substance or that there was no intent to possess it. This can be particularly relevant if someone else placed the drugs in the defendant’s belongings without their knowledge.

Unlawful Search and Seizure

This defense challenges the legality of the police search that led to the discovery of the drugs. Under the Fourth Amendment, searches and seizures must be conducted legally. Any evidence obtained unlawfully cannot be used in court.

Challenges to Drug Tests

Another strategy is questioning the accuracy and handling of the drug testing process. For instance, challenging the chain of custody of the drug sample or the reliability of the test results.

Medical Necessity

In some jurisdictions, the defendant may claim they needed the drug for a medical condition. This is particularly relevant when certain drugs, like cannabis, are legal for medicinal use.

Insufficient Quantity

The defense can argue that the quantity of the substance was too small to qualify as a usable amount. However, this defense’s applicability can vary by jurisdiction.

Mistaken Identity or False Accusation

Claiming that the defendant was mistakenly identified as the possessor of the drugs or was falsely accused is a reasonable defense.

Navigating the Texas Legal System With an Experienced Attorney

It is crucial for anyone facing drug possession charges to seek the assistance of a knowledgeable criminal defense attorney who can evaluate the specifics of the case and advise on the best defense strategy. 

Texas drug laws are intricate, with specific regulations and procedures that can be difficult to understand for those without legal training. An experienced attorney can navigate these complexities and explain the legal process in understandable terms.

Additionally, A lawyer ensures that your rights are protected throughout the legal process. This includes safeguarding against unlawful search and seizure, ensuring fair treatment by law enforcement and the courts, and ensuring that any plea deal is in your best interest.

Finally, if convicted, an attorney can guide you through the appeals process or seek post-conviction relief options if applicable. Also, an experienced attorney can help mitigate the long-term consequences of a drug possession charge, such as impacts on employment, education, and criminal record.

Get the Best Defense for Your Drug Possession Charge in Texas

When facing drug possession charges in Texas, the importance of experienced legal representation is essential. Navigating the complexities of Texas drug laws requires a deep understanding of the legal system and a strategic approach to defense. 

That’s where DWI Attorney Fort Bend comes in, offering unparalleled expertise and a proven track record in handling drug possession cases. You’ll find a team of dedicated legal professionals at DWI Attorney Fort Bend committed to protecting your rights and securing the best possible outcome.

Don’t let a drug possession charge define your future. Take the first step towards a strong defense by contacting DWI Attorney Fort Bend.

Is Marijuana Legal in Texas in 2023?

Is Marijuana Legal in Texas in 2023?

As the wave of marijuana legalization sweeps across the United States, many look to the Lone Star State with one pressing question. What is Texas’s stance on cannabis in 2023? 

Currently, recreational cannabis is illegal in Texas, with medical marijuana allowed under strict provisions. Historically, Texas has taken a conservative approach to marijuana legislation. However, with changing public opinions, economic considerations, and shifting political landscapes, the future status is positioned to change.

This article delves into the intricacies of Texas’s marijuana laws, the driving forces behind any recent changes, and what the future might hold for cannabis enthusiasts and patients in Texas.

What Constitutes Marijuana Possession in Texas

Marijuana possession in Texas involves knowingly or intentionally having any amount of usable marijuana, with additional penalties for intentionally growing or planning to sell THC-containing cannabis. 

These laws are in accordance with Federal regulations that list cannabis as a Schedule I drug. Generally, changes in Texas law follow precedents set by Federal law rather than precedents set by other states. 

While the penalties increase depending on the amount, ‘usable’ cannabis can be any amount that can create psychoactive effects. These penalties apply for all types of cannabis, although more flexible laws have recently been enacted to allow for some medical marijuana use.

How Does Texas Law Differentiate Recreational, Medical, CBD, and Hemp?

The Texas laws for cannabis primarily regulate delta-9 THC, the primary psychoactive compound responsible for marijuana’s effects. In the past, all parts of the cannabis plant were considered ‘usable marijuana.’

However, in 2015, Texas enacted the Compassionate-Use Act, which allowed strict provisions for the use of medical marijuana for specific cases, such as epilepsy. This law redefined cannabis by its THC content and manufacturable use to promote hemp cultivation while allowing for particular instances where low-THC products could be used for medical purposes. 

This law and its additions in 2019 and 2021 redefined cannabis in the following ways: 

  • Hemp: Any part of the plant or its derivatives that contains less than 0.3% THC. Amounts below this threshold are considered ‘trace’ and are legal in Texas. 
  • CBD: CBD, a non-psychoactive supplement, is legal as long as it is derived from hemp and contains less than 0.3% THC
  • Delta-8 THC: THC refers to delta-9 THC, the main psychoactive compound in cannabis. Delta-8 THC is much milder in effect. Like CBD, delta-8 cannabis derived from hemp with less than 0.3% delta-9 THC is legal.
  • Medical Marijuana: In Texas, cannabis with THC between 0.3% and 0.99% is legal for medical purposes. Any amount above 1% THC is illegal for any purpose in Texas. 
  • Amounts within this threshold must be approved by a physician and the patient must be a permanent state resident with a qualifying condition
  • Recreational Marijuana: Marijuana containing more than 1% delta-9 THC is illegal in all parts of Texas, following federal legal guidelines. 

When in doubt, consider the percentage of Δ-9 THC in a product. If the amount exceeds 0.3%, it is subject to penalty in Texas.

What are the Penalties for Marijuana Possession in Texas

Possessing cannabis with more than trace amounts of THC is considered a misdemeanor in Texas. The severity of the charge depends on the actual amount found on your person and the legal defense you have for possessing marijuana. 

The legal punishment for possession of THC-containing cannabis is as follows: 

  • Class B Misdemeanor: Less than 2 oz. Up to $2,000 fine and 180 days in jail. 
  • Class A Misdemeanor: 2-4 oz. Up to $4000 fine and one year in jail.
  • Jail Felony: 4 oz – 5 lbs. Up to $10,000 fine and 2 years in jail. 
  • 3rd Degree Felony: 5-50 lbs. Up to $10,000 fine and 10 years in jail. 
  • 2nd Degree Felony: 50-2,000 lbs. Up to $10,000 fine and 20 years in jail. 
  • 1st Degree Felony: 2000+ lbs. Up to $50,000 fine and Life Sentence. 

The degree of severity of these punishments scales with the intent to grow and distribute possessed weed. Amounts over two ounces are far more than an individual could reasonably consume.

Juveniles and first-time offenders may avoid significant jail time with the proper legal defense by participating in a diversion or drug treatment program. Repeat offenders can face much more severe terms regardless of the amount on their person but can still receive fair treatment with an appropriate legal defense.

When Will Cannabis Become Legal in Texas?

With 23 states legalizing cannabis for recreational use and many more allowing the sale of medical marijuana, you may be wondering when cannabis will become fully legalized in Texas. 

Currently, there’s no way to know when cannabis will attain the legal status of many of Texas’ neighbors. Still, the shifting attitude of the substance nation- and state-wide indicates that laws will become more accommodating in the coming years. 

While state public opinion is divided, amendments to the Texas legislature in the past 10 years suggest that individuals and politicians are accepting the possibility of legalization much more than in previous decades. 

Here’s a timeline of events in the past decade to demonstrate the rapid changes occurring in our state: 

  • 2015: The Compassionate-Use Act allowed low-THC (<0.3%) cannabis possession
  • 2019: A bill is passed to reduce penalties associated with possessing low volumes of cannabis for personal use. 
  • 2019: A new law, HB 1325, allows legal cultivation of hemp and hemp products with trace amounts of THC. 
  •  2021: A new law, HB 1535, increases the threshold of medical marijuana from 0.5% to 1%. 

While it may seem like full legalization is out of the question for Texas residents, recent laws suggest that change is coming consistently and rapidly. As public opinion becomes more open to cannabis, the legislature will follow to provide the fairest treatment. 

If cannabis becomes legal at the federal level, Texas will likely follow suit to match the precedent set by the U.S. government, as it has in the past.

Do You Need a Texas Attorney to Assist With Marijuana Possession?

However, while public opinion regarding cannabis seems to be turning, Texas law remains strict. 

If you find yourself facing legal challenges due to marijuana possession or use, it’s in your best interest to consult with a Texas attorney who specializes in marijuana laws. They will offer you the best chance at a favorable outcome and guide you through the state’s complex legal landscape.

For the best representation for possession of marijuana, contact Attorney Lee D. Cox, a specialist in drug possession law in Texas for over 20 years. Call today at 281-762-7345 for expert legal representation in Fort Bend County, Houston, and Sugar Land, Texas.

20+ Years of Experience in Criminal Defense

I began my career with the District Attorney’s office and have been in private practice focusing on criminal defense in Fort Bend and surrounding counties since 2002.