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Medical Marijuana Laws in Texas

As of April 2017, 29 states as well as the District of Columbia, Guam and Puerto Rico have enacted comprehensive public medical marijuana and cannabis programs. Texas is among 17 states that have allowed for much more limited use of products that are low in tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) but high in cannabidiol (CBD) either for preapproved medical reasons or as a legal defense.

The Texas Compassionate Use Act enacted by the Texas Legislature in 2015 with the passage of Senate Bill 339 requires the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) to create a secure registry of physicians who treat epilepsy for the purpose of prescribing low-THC cannabis to patients who have been diagnosed with intractable epilepsy, and also requires DPS to license at least three dispensing organizations by September 1, 2017—the only such parties that will be allowed to cultivate low-THC cannabis in Texas. People who need cannabis for other debilitating medical conditions can still face criminal charges in Texas for marijuana possession, as can visitors who may have authorization to possess medical marijuana in their home states.

Attorneys in Fort Worth Discuss Medical Marijuana Laws in Texas

If you were arrested for any kind of alleged cannabis crime in the DFW area but you needed marijuana for a medical purpose, it will be in your best interest to exercise your right to remain silent until you have legal representation. Townsend, Gebhardt & Eppes, PLLC aggressively defends clients facing all kinds of cannabis charges in Fort Worth, Cleburne, Weatherford, Arlington, and many surrounding areas of Tarrant County, Parker County, and Johnson County.

Fort Worth criminal defense lawyers Andrea Townsend, Steven Gebhardt, and Brian Eppes will explore all of your possible defenses and work tirelessly to possibly get your criminal charges reduced or dismissed. Call 817-502-3600 today to have our attorneys review your case and help you understand all of your legal options during a free, confidential consultation.


Overview of Medical Marijuana Laws in Tarrant County


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Medical Marijuana Legislation in Texas

The Texas Compassionate Use Act became law on June 1, 2015, when Governor Greg Abbot signed Senate Bill 339. The bill allows qualifying patients to access low-THC cannabis, which is defined under Texas Occupations Code § 169.001 as “the plant Cannabis sativa L., and any part of that plant or any compound, manufacture, salt, derivative, mixture, preparation, resin, or oil of that plant that contains” both of the following:

  • Not more than 0.5 percent by weight of THC; and
  • Not less than 10 percent by weight of CBD.

CBD is the major nonpsychoactive component of cannabis with such medical benefits as pain and nausea relief, seizure treatment, and cancer-fighting properties. THC, however, is the cannabis ingredient that often gets the most attention because it is the principal psychoactive constituent of marijuana that affects the brain’s endocannabinoid system (ECS).

The Texas Compassionate Use Act allows qualified physicians on the Compassionate Use Registry to prescribe low-THC cannabis only to patients with intractable epilepsy. Furthermore, medical use of low-THC cannabis is limited to ingestion by a means of administration other than by smoking, meaning that approved patients could be forced to rely on possibly less effective alternative means of consumption such as CBD oils.

Numerous Texas lawmakers have proposed a variety of laws in recent years that have attempted to either expand the number of patients eligible for medical marijuana or simply decriminalize cannabis for recreational purposes. During the 2017 legislative session, for example, House bills included measures to create a specialty court for certain first-time marijuana possession offenders, make possession of certain small amounts of marijuana punishable by a civil penalty instead of a criminal penalty, and make convictions for possession of one ounce or less of marijuana Class C misdemeanors instead of Class B misdemeanors, while two Senate resolutions proposed constitutional amendments submitted to the voters at an election to be held on November 6, 2018 that would authorize and regulate the possession, cultivation, and sale of cannabis.


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Necessity Defense in Tarrant County Medical Marijuana Cases

Tim Stevens was diagnosed with the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) in 1986. As a result, he suffered from cyclical vomiting syndrome (CVS), an illness involving sudden, repeated attacks of severe nausea, vomiting, and physical exhaustion. Stevens found smoking marijuana helped ease his suffering.

Stevens had no prior criminal record when he was arrested for possessing less than 4 grams of marijuana. On March 25, 2008, Stevens was acquitted of marijuana possession charges in a case that the Texas Chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) reported was believed to be the first successful use of that affirmative defense against cannabis charges in Texas courts.

The libertarian magazine Reason reported that the jury needed only 11 minutes to return with a not guilty verdict after a trial that lasted nearly 10 hours. Stevens’ attorney told the Austin Chronicle that he found at least two similar cases where the necessity defense had been raised, although the affirmative defense was unsuccessful and the Court of Criminal Appeals upheld the convictions in both cases.

A necessity defense is also known as the “lesser of two evils” defense, meaning that an alleged offender argues his or her alleged criminal conduct was justified because it was necessary to avoid an even greater harm. In the case of Tim Stevens, the Medical Director of the Infectious Diseases Bureau for the Department of Health in New Mexico testified not only about marijuana’s efficacy in treating nausea but also how cannabis was more effective than legal alternatives that need to be taken orally and can be difficult for a person suffering from CVS to keep down.


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Texas Resources for Medical Marijuana Laws

Compassionate Use Program | Texas DPS — On this section of the DPS website, you can learn more about Texas’ medical marijuana program. You can view the original Senate Bill and the full set of administrative rules for the program. You can also find news, updates, and answers to frequently asked questions.

CBD Only Versus Whole Plant Legislation | Texas NORML — View the full text of a paper by Vincent Lopez, the Director of Patient Outreach for Texas NORML as well as founder of Patient Alliance for Cannabis Therapeutics and founder of the Austin 420. The article was published on February 14, 2015, and focuses on the CBD-focused House Bill 892 and Senate Bill 339. The author writes, “From our perspective, CBD only legislation represents a very minimal comprehension of what cannabis actually is and what it can do.” (Emphasis in original.) The article also features a link to a separate document comparing comprehensive medical marijuana proposals to CBD proposals.


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Townsend, Gebhardt & Eppes, PLLC | Fort Worth Medical Marijuana Defense Lawyer

Are you a person who needs cannabis for a medical condition but has been recently arrested for marijuana possession or a related offense in the DFW area? Do not say anything to authorities without legal counsel. Contact Townsend, Gebhardt & Eppes, PLLC right now.

Andrea Townsend, Steven Gebhardt, and Brian Eppes are experienced criminal defense attorneys in Fort Worth who represent individuals in communities throughout Tarrant County, Parker County, and Johnson County, including Weatherford, Fort Worth, Cleburne, Arlington, and several others. You can have our lawyers provide a complete evaluation of your case as soon as you call 817-502-3600 or submit an online form to schedule a free initial consultation.


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