Marijuana is the most commonly used illicit substance in Texas and throughout the United States. The use of Marijuana is portrayed all over the media – in music videos, on television, and in the movies. Many people assume that marijuana-related criminal charges are not as serious other drug charges. However, if you are arrested for possessing or distributing marijuana in Texas, you could face very serious consequences.
Criminal defense attorney Matt Horak is experienced in aggressively defending those who have been charged with marijuana offenses throughout Houston and the surrounding areas. There are a number of serious criminal matters that can result from the recreational use, possession, or cultivation of cannabis in Texas, some of these include:
If you are arrested for a marijuana-related offense, the most important thing you can do is contact an experienced criminal defense attorney immediately. Your time to defend yourself is limited. A conviction for marijuana can have many consequences, and might continue to affect your life long after you have served your time. However, there are many effective strategies for fighting a marijuana charge. Your attorney can discuss your options with you and help you craft a defense that is right for your circumstances.
Matt Horak is a member and Public Information Officer for the Houston area based branch of NORML -- the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws.
Houston Marijuana Defense Attorney
Matt Horak has represented many Texans charged with possession and/or distribution of marijuana as well as other drug crimes in Texas. He is also a former Harris County Assistant District Attorney and current member of the NORML legal committee, both factors which help Matt give his clients the representation that they deserve. Matt has the experience and knowledge necessary to help prevent your arrest from haunting you for the rest of your life. He’s ready to listen to your questions, assess your case, and fight for you in court.
If you have been arrested on marijuana charges in Harris, Montgomery, Fort Bend, Brazoria, Galveston, or Liberty counties, contact Matt Horak today at (713) 225-8000 or toll-free at (800) 225-8009.
Marijuana Charges Information Center
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Penalties for Marijuana Possession
If you are arrested for possession of marijuana or drug paraphernalia (such as rolling papers, pipes, etc), you could be facing some serious penalties. What kind of punishment you are dealt depends on the amount of the drug you are charged with possessing. Under the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure, the typical penalties for possession are as follows:
- Possession of paraphernalia – Class C misdemeanor, with a $500 fine;
- Possession of 2 oz. or less – Class B misdemeanor, subjecting the defendant to 180 days in jail and a fine of $2,000;
- Possession of 2 to 4 oz. – Class A misdemeanor, meaning you could face up to a year in jail and a $4,000 fine;
- Possession of between 4 oz and 5 pounds – state jail felony, with a punishment of between 180 days jail to 2 years in prison plus a $10,000 fine;
- Possession of 5 to 50 lbs – third degree felony, with a punishment of 2-10 years in prison and a fine of $10,000;
- Possession of between 50 and 2,000 lbs – second degree felony, which means the defendant could be sentenced to 2-20 years incarceration and a $10,000 fine; or
- Possession of more than 2,000 pounds – first degree felony, with a punishment of 5-99 years and $50,000 fine
It’s also important to note that these are only guidelines. Your actual sentence depends on the circumstances of the crime, your criminal history, and even the personality of the judge sentencing you. For example, if you are convicted of possession of less than a pound, the judge may sentence you to treatment instead of incarceration and/or waive all fines. Your attorney can apprise you of the kind of punishment you can expect based on your unique circumstances.
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Penalties for Distributing Marijuana
The penalties for distributing marijuana (either by gift or sale) are even steeper than the penalties for possession. Typical punishments for distribution under the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure are as follows:
- Gift of ¼ oz or less – Class B misdemeanor, subjecting the defendant to 180 days in jail and a $2,000 fine;
- Sale of paraphernalia – Class A misdemeanor, resulting in 1 year and jail and up to a $4,000 fine. If the buyer was a minor, at least 3 years younger than the seller, then the sale is a state jail felony and the punishment is 180 days to 2 years in prison and a $10,000 fine;
- Sale of ¼ oz of marijuana or less – Class A misdemeanor, subjecting the defendant to up to 1 year in jail and a $4,000 fine;
- Sale of ¼ oz to 5 pounds – state jail felony, resulting in 180 days to 2 years in prison and a $10,000 fine;
- Sale of 5 to 50 pounds – second degree felony, with a punishment of 2-20 years incarceration and a $10,000 fine;
- Sale of 50 to 2,000 pounds – first degree felony, with 5-99 years in prison and a $10,000 fine; and
- Sale of more than 2,000 pounds – felony, with a minimum mandatory sentence of 10-99 years and a $100, 000 fine.
These are the typical sentences for an adult selling the drug to another adult. Punishments for juvenile crimes will vary. However, the penalties for selling marijuana are always very serious. If you are arrested for possession or sale of marijuana, you should contact an attorney immediately.
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Marijuana consists of the dried flowering tops, leaves, and stems of the pistillate hemp plant, cannabis sativa, cannabis indica, or a crossbreed or blend of the two species. It is most commonly used as a substance that is smoked, vaporized, or ingested for recreational, spiritual, or medicinal purposes. It is known for it's mind-altering effects that range from euphoric to mildly hallucinogenic. The primary psychoactive compound in marijuana is delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol or THC.
Another form of marijuana is known as hashish or hash and is formed by compressing the resinous glands called trichomes into a paste. Hash can also be smoked and has a much higher concentration of THC than traditional marijuana buds or plant material.
Marijuana is sometimes referred to using slang terms such as "weed", "pot", "ganja", "reefer", "bud", or "chronic." It is estimated that roughly 40.4% of adults in the United States have used marijuana at least once.
Marijuana has been cultivated and used by humans for over 5000 years. In fact, the very first woven fabric was made from the hemp plant. The first marijuana law was enacted at Jamestown Colony, Virginia in 1619. It was a law “ordering” all farmers to grow Indian hempseed. There were several other “must grow” laws over the next 200 years. During the 1790's, George Washington grew hemp cannabis for fiber production at Mount Vernon as one of his primary crops.
Marijuana was outlawed in the United States in 1937 with the enactment of the Marihuana Tax Act. While marijuana and the hemp or cannabis plant have carried a number of uses and benefits for thousands of years, the criminal penalties for possessing or using marijuana in Texas today are very harsh.
The Possible Medical Benefits of Marijuana
Cannabinoids are a specific class of chemical compounds that are found only in the cannabis plant. There are at least 85 cannabinoids that have been isolated and while few have been adequately researched, some have been found to have very specific medical benefits. THC has been shown to treat cancer and aids patients by increasing appetite and decreasing nausea. It has also been shown to assist glaucoma patients by relieving nerve pressures within the eye.
THC has also been found to help alleviate neuropathic pain and spasticity in patients with multiple sclerosis or other nerve-related conditions. CBD or cannabidiol has been shown to inhibit cancer cell growth and can relieve convulsion, inflammation, anxiety, and nausea. Cannabinoids have also been shown to stop the growth of certain malignant or cancerous tumors in the body. Medical conditions that are most commonly treated with marijuana include:
- Multiple Sclerosis
- Lou Gherig's disease
- Rheumatoid arthritis
Despite the obvious medical benefits of marijuana; it remains completely illegal in the state of Texas as well as under federal law.
The Health Risks of Smoking Marijuana
Although marijuana is far less addictive than alcohol, nicotine, or even caffeine, there are many serious health risks associated with smoking marijuana. Marijuana use may also have negative health effects on users and those subjected to second hand smoke, especially children. These health effects include:
- Increased heart rate and decreased blood pressure
- Loss of coordination and distorted perception, which makes driving and operating machinery difficult and potentially dangerous
- Increased risks of lung infection and chest illnesses
- Impaired immune system, which makes other infections/illnesses more likely and more severe
- Negative effects on unborn children, including problems with memory and sustained attention
If you are worried about the health effects of marijuana, or believe that you or a loved one has become dependent on any drug, you should seek out medical advice and treatment immediately.
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Medical Marijuana in Texas
Medical cannabis use has a long history of medicinal benefits dating back as early as 2,737 BC. Medical marijuana laws have been passed in 14 U.S. states completely decriminalizing marijuana for medical purposes. In these states, patients can obtain legal marijuana from a medical dispensary only after being approved for a medical marijuana card with recommendation from a doctor.
In Texas, medical marijuana is not recognized as a valid treatment option for any disease. If you are caught with marijuana in Texas, you will be charged with possession, regardless of what you were using the drug for. Even if you are from a medical marijuana state and have a documented medical condition and a medical marijuana card, the state of Texas will not recognize the medical marijuana laws from any other state.
In addition, marijuana is also illegal under federal law and is considered a schedule I drug with no medical uses under the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) (21 U.S.C. § 811). If you're from a medical marijuana state, and have been charged with a marijuana-related criminal offense in the state of Texas, it's vitally important to contact an experienced marijuana defense attorney in Texas.
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The Marijuana Tax Stamp Act
Most people do not realize that Texas requires marijuana users to pay taxes on the drug, even though it is illegal. This means that those who possess marijuana are required to buy tax stamps and affix these stamps to the package(s) containing the drug. Those who do not do so may be prosecuted separately, under Chapter 159 of the Tax Code.
The tax for marijuana is $3.50/gram. The tax does not apply to individuals who possess less than 4 ounces of the drug. Failure to comply with the Tax Stamp Act is a third degree felony, resulting in a fine of 200% of the tax.
Although many states have similar laws, they are seldom enforced, and most people do not even realize they exist. However, it is possible to be prosecuted for failure to comply with the Tax Stamp Act, in conjunction with or instead of other charges.
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Driving Under the Influence of Marijuana
Texas does not have a separate body of law for driving under the influence of marijuana. Those arrested for driving under the influence or marijuana will be charged and sentenced as though they were driving while intoxicated (DWI).
For a first offense, the penalty includes a minimum 72 hours in jail; a fine; community service; and a mandatory DWI education program. For subsequent offenses, the penalty can include up to ten years in prison as well as fines and community service.
Under Texas Transportation Code §78, DWI is also a surchargeable offense. This means that the defendant will be forced to pay a surcharge, separate from the fines above, every year for three years following his conviction. For the first offense, the surcharge is $1000/year. For subsequent offenses, the surcharge is $2000/year.
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Indirect Consequences of Marijuana Crimes
The initial and arrest and conviction are not the end of the story for most defendants. In fact, a conviction for possession or distribution of marijuana might haunt the defendant for the rest of his or her life. Some “side effects” or an arrest or conviction for marijuana may include:
- Suspension of your driver’s license, even if you were not driving when you committed the offense
- Trouble finding employment or getting into college or the military
- Difficulty obtaining student loans or government subsidized housing
- Possible inability to qualify for food stamps or other government assistance
- Being denied entrance into some foreign countries
- Jeopardizing child custody or adoption actions
- For a felony conviction, your right to vote or possess firearms might be affected
For some people, having the arrest expunged from their criminal records may be a solution to some of the above problems. However, this is an extremely limited option. You should speak with an attorney if you want to learn more about how to lessen or prevent the effects of an arrest or conviction.
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If you have been arrested for marijuana-related offenses, you are probably wondering which defenses might be effective for you. As with any criminal case, which defense your attorney chooses depends on the circumstances of your arrest, your criminal history, and many other factors. No defense is effective 100% of the time. However, some possible strategies your lawyer is likely to discuss with you include:
Illegal searches / seizures: it may be possible to have the evidence the police gathered suppressed if the search of your person, vehicle, or other property was done in an unconstitutional manner. If the evidence is suppressed, that means that the prosecution may not use it against you in court. Oftentimes this leaves the prosecution unable to prove their case, resulting in the case being dismissed or the defendant being acquitted. Filing motions to suppress or exclude evidence is particularly effective in marijuana cases.
Invalid search warrant: Similarly, if the police used an improperly created search warrant – or searched areas outside of the scope of the search warrant – it may be possible to have any evidence they found during the search suppressed.
Failure to Possess: it might be possible to show that though you were in an area where a drug was present and accessible to you, you did not possess the drug. For example, if you were at a party where marijuana was being used or were a passenger in a vehicle where the drug was located, but you were not aware of the presence of the drug or using the drug, your lawyer may be able to show that you were not in possession of the drug.
Your attorney will want to talk to you about all of the circumstances of your arrest, your past criminal history, and what you were doing before and after you were arrested. You should be completely honest with your attorney regarding all of these factors. Your attorney will need complete and truthful information in order to assess what defenses you might have and what, if any, punishment you should expect if you are convicted.
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Marijuana Law Resources
National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws - NORML is a non-profit, public-interest organization that opposes marijuana prohibition including all criminal penalties for private possession, cultivation, and responsible use of marijuana by adults. Their website provides information on marijuana laws (by state) and activism to change those laws.
Houston NORML - The Houston chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws meets on the third Thursday of each month 7:30pm at: West Gray Cafe
415 West Gray
Houston, TX 77019
Law Enforcement Against Prohibition - LEAP is made up of current and former members of the law enforcement and criminal justice communities who are speaking out about the failures of our existing drug policies.
Students for Sensible Drug Policy - The SSDP is an international grassroots network of students who are concerned about the impact drug abuse has on our communities and who are pushing for sensible policies to achieve a safer and more just future, while fighting back against counterproductive Drug War policies, particularly those that directly harm students and youth.
Marijuana Policy Project - The MPP Foundation is a non-profit organization aimed at gaining public support for non-punitive, non-coercive marijuana policies. The MPP works to change state laws to reduce or eliminate penalties for medical and non-medical use of marijuana by responsible adults.
Americans for Safe Access - The ASA is the nation’s largest organization of patients, medical professionals, scientists and concerned citizens promoting safe and legal access to cannabis for therapeutic use and research.
Memorial Hermann Prevention and Recovery Center - Drug and alcohol addiction treatment center in Houston. 3043 Gessner Ave.
Houston, TX 77080
(713) 939 – 7272
Talking with Your Child About Marijuana - Tips on how to speak with your child about marijuana.
Office of National Drug Control Policy - ONDCP is to establish policies, priorities, and objectives for the Nation's drug control program. The goals of the program are to reduce illicit drug use, manufacturing, and trafficking, drug-related crime and violence, and drug-related health consequences.
Drug Enforcement Agency - Marijuana - The DEA's webpage about marijuana and links to other government organization's online materials about marijuana.
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Matt Horak | Houston Marijuana Lawyer
Being arrested for a marijuana-related offense is a scary thing. The punishments for using or distributing marijuana can be very steep. Houston criminal defense attorney Matt Horak understands how the criminal justice system works. He has represented many Texas accused of marijuana possession and sale, and he’s ready to fight for you.
The Law Offices of Matt Horak works with clients in Harris and Montgomery Counties, including the City of Houston and surrounding areas. If you have been arrested for possession or distribution of marijuana, contact Matt Horak today at (713) 225-8000 or toll-free at (800) 225-8009.
Contributor: Matt Horak