Understanding Texas’ “Usable Quantity” Definition in Marijuana Possession Cases

Texas is one of 26 states in which marijuana possession remains illegal, despite the fact that an August 2022 Dallas Morning News/UT-Tyler poll found that 72 percent of Texas voters support legalizing marijuana for medical use, and 55 percent favor legalizing it for recreational use. Texas also has a somewhat unique approach to marijuana possession cases that involves the “usable quantity” definition.

What is usable quantity?

Usable quantity is the minimum amount of marijuana an individual must possess to violate Texas marijuana laws. But what is usable marijuana? Texas Health and Safety Code follows the federal definition of usable marijuana—the seeds, resin extracted from any part of the plant, and every compound, manufacture, salt, derivative, mixture, or preparation of the plant or its seeds. The term excludes the mature stalks of the plant, fiber produced from the stalks, oil or cake made from the plant’s seeds, and other compounds, manufacture, salts, derivatives, mixtures, or preparations of the mature stalks, fiber, oil, or cake.

Possession of a usable quantity of marijuana is a key element in marijuana possession cases in Texas, and the state historically makes a distinction between “usable” and “non-usable” quantities to determine the severity of penalties. While any amount of marijuana possession is generally prohibited, the consequences for possession may be more severe if the amount is believed to be usable, which suggests it is intended for consumption.

Texas marijuana laws

Texas has strict laws regarding marijuana possession. Here’s a summary:

  • Possession for recreational use: Marijuana possession for recreational use is illegal in Texas, and the possession of any amount of marijuana is generally prohibited.
  • Penalties based on quantity: Penalties for marijuana possession in Texas vary based on the amount possessed. Small amounts may lead to misdemeanor charges, while larger quantities can result in felony charges.
  • Growing marijuana: It is illegal to grow marijuana for personal or medicinal use in Texas, whether you try to grow it inside your home, in your outdoor garden, or in a public space. If you’re arrested for cultivating 100 or more marijuana plants, you could face a minimum of five years of mandatory prison time, and cultivating 1000 or more plants can lead to a minimum of 10 years of mandatory prison time.
  • Intent to distribute: If there is evidence of intent to distribute or sell marijuana, the charges and penalties can be more severe.
  • Drug-free zones: Possession of marijuana within a certain proximity to schools, playgrounds, or other designated areas can result in enhanced penalties.
  • Medical marijuana: Texas has a limited medical marijuana program that allows for the use of low-THC cannabis for certain medical conditions. However, this program has strict eligibility criteria, and the use of marijuana for recreational purposes remains illegal.
  • CBD and hemp: Texas allows the sale and possession of CBD products with low THC content derived from hemp. However, it’s important to ensure that CBD products comply with state and federal regulations.

In 2019, Texas voted to legalize hemp, but marijuana remains illegal, which has led to misunderstandings about which marijuana products are prohibited and which are not. Marijuana is classified as a cannabis plant that has a THC concentration of more than 0.3%. If the substance has less THC, it’s considered hemp.

How does the amount of marijuana in question affect the charges and penalties for marijuana possession in Texas?

The amount of marijuana possessed in Texas is an extremely critical factor in determining the charges and penalties. Texas law categorizes marijuana offenses based on the quantity possessed, and the penalties may vary from misdemeanor charges for small quantities to felony charges for larger amounts. Here’s a general guideline:

  • Possession of two ounces or less: A Class B misdemeanor punishable by a fine of up to $2,000, up to 180 days in jail, and possible probation.
  • Possession of two to four ounces: A Class A misdemeanor with potential penalties including a fine of up to $4,000, as much as one year in jail, and possible probation.
  • Possession of four ounces to five pounds: A state jail felony punishable by a potential fine of as much as $10,000, 180 days to two years in a state jail facility, and possible probation.
  • Possession of five pounds to 50 pounds: A third-degree felony punishable by a possible fine of up to $10,000, two to 10 years in prison, and possible probation.
  • Possession of 50 pounds to 2,000 pounds: A second-degree felony with penalties including a fine of up to $10,000, two to 20 years in prison, and possible probation.
  • Possession of 2,000 pounds or more: A first-degree felony punishable by penalties of up to $50,000 in fines, five to 99 years in prison, and possible probation.

Even as other states have relaxed their marijuana laws, possession of pot still carries serious penalties in the Lone Star State. Although the Texas legislature has attempted to make the possession of one ounce or less of marijuana a Class C misdemeanor, the measure failed to pass, and as a result, Texas marijuana laws allow police to arrest someone for having almost any amount of marijuana.

Although the majority of citizens in Denton, Killeen, Elgin, San Marcos, and Harker Heights have all voted in favor of ballot measures prohibiting arrests and citations for possessing under four ounces of marijuana in most cases, the local city governments have failed to put the rules in place because they won’t go against state law. Additionally, Bell County, which includes Killeen, has filed a lawsuit to keep the low-level marijuana enforcement measures from taking effect, despite the fact that 69 percent of Killeen voters approve them.

Are you facing marijuana possession charges in Central Texas? At the Mary Beth Harrell Law Firm, our Copperas Cove criminal defense attorneys have years of experience representing people in your situation and understand that a drug conviction can follow you around for the rest of your life. We will fight to keep your record clean. Call or fill out our contact form to set up an initial consultation today. We maintain an additional office in Killeen, and proudly serve Belton, Harker Heights, Waco, Williamson County, Bell County, Coryell County, and McLennan County.