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What Does the Federal Marijuana Law Change Mean for Texas

The Law Firm of Andrea M. Kolski

In October 2022, President Joe Biden announced his intention to pardon people currently serving time in jail for convictions under the Federal marijuana law.

The American public is finally questioning the failures of the decades-long “war on drugs” and whether the billions of dollars, thousands of lives, and countless convictions are really having any positive effect on our communities.

President Biden has taken a major first step towards redefining America’s failed “war on drugs” with this recent announcement. For the first time, if you have a conviction for possession of marijuana, you may be eligible for a pardon.

However, this new pardon will do nothing for state-level convictions. To combat this inconsistency, President Biden has petitioned state governors to follow his lead and make marijuana possession pardons of their own.

So, you may be wondering: does Governor Greg Abbott in Texas plan to pass a similar pardon? And if so, how could that impact you? We are answering these questions and more in this guide.

What Is the New Federal Marijuana Law?

President Biden’s new marijuana pardon has the potential to impact around 6,500 people with marijuana possession convictions. However, it is unclear how many individuals have simple possession convictions at the federal level.

The majority of people with simple possession convictions received them at the state level. As we mentioned, Biden has also petitioned state governors to follow his lead. But state governors are not obligated to do so.

What Happens If You Receive a Pardon?

People affected by Biden’s new law will receive a federal government-issued certificate of pardon. But it is important to understand what this certificate of pardon can and can not do.

First of all, federal pardons do not alter your criminal record. Your simple possession charge will still appear on your record for potential employers to see.

Secondly, it is still unclear how feasible these pardons will actually be. The federal government will have to obtain records of all individuals with simple possession convictions. And that will take time.

Will Texans Receive Pardons for Simple Possession of Marijuana?

Texans who have federal convictions for simple possession should receive a pardon. But if you have a state conviction on your record, you likely will not.

Governor Greg Abbott also does not seem like he wants to make these kinds of pardons either. He recently released a statement voicing his stance against these pardons.

If the governor’s opponent in the upcoming governor’s race wins, though, this could change. Beto O’Rourke has voiced his support for a Texas-wide pardon for simple possession of marijuana.

What Is Texas’ Stance on Marijuana in 2022?

Texas is still far behind other states when it comes to decriminalization and legalization. Lawmakers have routinely shut down any significant revisions to it’s strict marijuana laws. The few changes made over the last few years are vague and confusing even for those in law enforcement.

Bowing to public pressure, Texas lawmakers reluctantly passed pieces of the the federal Farm Bill which is aimed at commercial production. This allowed the legalization of very few forms of hemp in 2019. What is legal: a few hemp-derived products, including CBD, that contain 0.3% THC content or less. What is not legal: pretty much everything else!

Technically, marijuana is still illegal in Texas. Any cannabis plant containing 0.3% THC or more is classified as marijuana, not hemp. And you can get in trouble with the law for buying it, selling it, or even possessing it.

However, testing is still a problem in many areas. Most Texas police departments lack the proper equipment to accurately test the level of THC in a product. Therefore, they tend to err on the side of caution and charge people as if they possessed an amount in excess of 0.3%.

Meanwhile, the state’s Compassionate Use Program allows Texans suffering from certain mental health conditions to use medical cannabis products containing 1% THC or less.

Other marijuana-derived products are currently in a gray area. For example, the legal status of the cannabinoid, delta-8-THC, is currently in limbo in a Department of State Health Services court battle.

While most Texas politicians do not support the legalization of marijuana, there is a growing public movement pushing for decriminalization.

A proposed law known as HB 63 received bipartisan support from Texas legislators until it ultimately failed.

Texas Voters’ Stance on Marijuana

60% of Texans currently report supporting weed legalization of some kind. And 69% of Texans believe that weed possession penalties should be lower. Compare this to the state-wide sentiment a little over ten years ago. In 2010, only 42% of Texans reported wanting to legalize marijuana.

While Texas citizens attitude towards marijuana has changed significantly, their elected representatives are still stuck in the past.

Republican representatives in Texas are still staunchly against legalization or decriminalization. A whopping 18% of Texas conservatives believe weed should never be legal. The good news is that this figure is down from about 27% in 2010.

States That Have Pardoned Marijuana Possession Convictions Already

The federal government is not the first political entity to pardon marijuana possession convictions.

In New York, a law passed legalizing recreational cannabis in 2021. Since then, the Governor has stated that simple possession of marijuana convictions will receive automatic expungement once the law goes into effect.

In Illinois, the governor offered a pardon for nearly 10,000 marijuana offenders in early 2021. This law also came after the state passed a law legalizing recreational cannabis use in 2020.

Pennsylvania is another state in the process of issuing pardons to marijuana possession offenders. Other states like Minnesota, Kansas, Louisiana, and North Carolina hope to soon follow.

What’s Next for Marijuana Legalization Efforts in the Lone Star State?

The fight for legalization in Texas is long from over. While there is some talk of decriminalization, the move towards legalization seems highly unlikely in Texas.

Some candidates talk about decriminalization but do very little to move the needle. The recent governors candidates, Republican Greg Abbott and Democrat Beto O’Rourke, have stated their openness to marijuana decriminalization. The majority of state Democrats favor decriminalization and many favor full legalization. But in a state controlled by Republicans, these Democrat hopes are bleak. It’s very unlikely a Republican Governor and majority Republican lawmakers will make any significant moves to change the laws.

A staunch opponent of Texas’ cannabis legalization efforts is Texas Lt. Governor Dan Patrick. As second in command to Gov. Abbott, Lt. Gov. Patrick has been a major roadblock to any weed-friendly bills introduced in Texas. He maintains a hard stance against marijuana and he also controls the Texas Senate.

What to Do if You Get Arrested for Marijuana Possession in Texas

Biden’s new federal marijuana law may pardon people with possession convictions at the federal level. But it will not affect Texans with state marijuana possession convictions.

It is also important to remember that Texas laws make possession of weed illegal. It is only legal to possess marijuana if you are a medical marijuana patient.

Otherwise, you can only legally possess hemp-derived products with 0.3% THC or less.

If you or a loved one are facing a marijuana possession charge in Montgomery County, Texas, don’t gamble with your future. Drug possession lawyer Andrea M. Kolski has over 20+ years of experience fighting for clients like you. Her track record of success is second to none. Call today to schedule a consultation.

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