Cannabis in Texas

2012 pro-cannabis protest in Austin

The 2017 Houston, Texas Cannabidio l Superbowl Conference. A panel of scientists, along with 7 ex-NFL players presented a case for using CBD products.

Cannabis in Texas, the United States state, is illegal for medical and recreational purposes, though low-THC CBD oil is allowed for the treatment of epilepsy since 2015 . In 1919 cannabis was restricted to prescription-only in Texas, prohibited in 1923, and was declared a “narcotic” with potential life-sentences from 1931–1973.


Early history[edit]

John Gregory Bourke described the use of “mariguan”, which he identifies as Cannabis indica or Indian hemp, by Mexican residents of the Rio Grande region of Texas in 1894. He described its uses for treatment of asthma, to expedite delivery, to keep away witches, and as a love-philtre. He also wrote that many Mexicans added the herb to their cigarritos or mescal, often taking a bite of sugar afterward to intensify the effect. Bourke wrote that because it was often used in a mixture with toloachi (which he inaccurately describes as Datura stramonium), mariguan was one of the several plants known as “loco weed“. Bourke compared mariguan to hasheesh, which he called “one of the greatest curses of the East”, citing reports that users “become maniacs and are apt to commit all sorts of acts of violence and murder”, causing degeneration of the body and an idiotic appearance, and mentioned laws against sale of hasheesh “in most Eastern countries”.[1][2][3]

1915 El Paso ban[edit]

The Texas city of El Paso was the first American city to individually restrict cannabis, in 1915. The scene for this city ban was set in 1913, when a man killed a police officer in neighboring Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, while chasing an El Paso couple.[4] Chief Deputy Stanley Good of the El Paso Sheriff’s Department noted over several media statements:

One under its influence is devoid of fear and as reckless of consequences or results. There are instances where the drug crazed victim has been placed in jail, but in many cases officers have been compelled to slay the fiend in order to save their own lives. … A large percentage of the crimes committed are by men saturated with the drug… Most Mexicans in this section are addicted to the habit, and it is a growing habit among Americans.[5]

1919 medical restrictions[edit]

In 1919, the Texas legislature restricted the purchase of narcotics, including cannabis, without a prescription.[6]

1923 prohibition[edit]

In 1923, the Texas legislature illegalized possession of narcotics, to include cannabis, with the intent to sell.[6]

1931–1973 narcotic classification[edit]

2015 Border Patrol seizure of cannabis in the Rio Grande Valley

In 1931, the state of Texas declared cannabis a “narcotic“, allowing up to life sentences for possession; this status was to last until 1973.[7] In 1973 the law was amended to declare possession of four ounces or less a misdemeanor.[8][9]

Proposed recreational legalization (2015)[edit]

In 2015 state representative David Simpson submitted HB 2165, proposing the recreational legalization of cannabis in Texas. A Tea Party-backed conservative, Simpson made a religious case for cannabis, stating: “I don’t believe that when God made marijuana, he made a mistake that government needs to fix.” In May Simpson’s bill gained a majority of support in the House Criminal Jurisprudence Committee, but was not accepted to make it further on the floor of the house in the limited time remaining in the legislative session.[10][11]

CBD oil (2015)[edit]

On 1 June 2015, governor Greg Abbott signed the Texas Compassionate Use Act, allowing the use of low-THC CBD oil to treat epilepsy in Texas. Abbott caveated his support: “I remain convinced that Texas should not legalize marijuana, nor should Texas open the door for conventional marijuana to be used for medicinal purposes.”[12] This followed a House vote of 96–34 on SB339.[13]


Marijuana Lobby Day was first held in Austin in 2011, when 25 people showed up to press the issue to the legislature (which meets once every two years). In 2013, 50 people attended, in 2015 there were 300, and 375 in 2017.[14]

Harris County[edit]

In October 2014, Harris County District Attorney Devon Anderson announced the First Chance Intervention Program, under which persons possessing two ounces of cannabis or less could be offered a diversionary program of 90 days of community service or drug education, in place of criminal charges and imprisonment. Effective January 2016, the program was expanded to be mandatory for all law enforcement within the county.[15][16]

In 2017, newly-elected District Attorney Kim Ogg stated that Harris County would no longer imprison people for any cannabis possession misdemeanors: “I’ve never felt good about putting marijuana users in the same jail cells as murderers. It’s just not fair, it doesn’t make any sense, and our country is resoundingly against that.”[17][18] Complete decriminalization for possession of under four ounces of cannabis began on March 1, 2017, with no charges, ticketing, or criminal record.[19]

Online petition to legalize both recreational and medicinal cannabis in Texas (2017)[edit]

In March 2017, an online campaign was formed to legalize cannabis for both recreational and medicinal usage. A petition titled, “Recreational & Medicinal Marijuana Legalization In Texas”, was posted on and has gathered over 39,000 signatures.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ John G. Bourke (1984-01-05). “Popular medicine, customs, and superstitions of the Rio Grande”. Journal of American Folklore. 7–8: 138.
  2. ^ “(Record of “marijuan” sample submitted by Bourke to the National Museum, 1892)”.
  3. ^ Bourke cites an anonymous writer in the “Evening Star”, Washington, D. C., January 13, 1894 for additional remarks on the use of mariguan and Jamestown weed by inhabitants of the area.
  4. ^ Aaron Martinez, El Paso 4:10 p.m. MDT June 2, 2015 (2015-06-02). “100 years after El Paso becomes first city in U.S. to outlaw pot, debate remains the same”. Retrieved 2016-10-27.CS1 maint: Multiple names: authors list (link)
  5. ^ Chesey, Bob (January 9, 2014). “Stanley Good and El Paso’s 1915 marihuana ordinance”. Newspaper Tree. Archived from the original on April 11, 2016.CS1 maint: BOT: original-url status unknown (link)
  6. ^ a b Richard Davenport-Hines (10 November 2003). The Pursuit of Oblivion: A Global History of Narcotics. W.W. Norton. pp. 239–. ISBN 978-0-393-32545-4.
  7. ^ National Governors’ Conference. Center for Policy Research and Analysis (1977). Marijuana: A Study of State Policies and Penalties. Department of Justice, Law Enforcement Assistance Administration, National Institute of Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice.
  8. ^ Emmis Communications (March 1976). Texas Monthly. Emmis Communications. pp. 22–. ISSN 0148-7736.
  9. ^ Gabriel G. Nahas (22 October 2013). Keep off the Grass: A Scientific Enquiry Into the Biological Effects of Marijuana. Elsevier. pp. 123–. ISBN 978-1-4832-8037-0.
  10. ^ Phillip, Abby (1970-01-01). “Backed by the ‘Christian case’ for weed, legalization bill moves forward in Texas”. The Washington Post. Retrieved 2016-11-30.
  11. ^ Rosenthal, Brian M. (2015-05-07). “Texas House panel approves full legalization of marijuana – Houston Chronicle”. Retrieved 2016-11-30.
  12. ^ June 1, 2015 2:56 PM (2015-06-01). “Abbott Legalizes Cannabis Oil for Epilepsy Patients”. The Texas Tribune. Retrieved 2016-11-30.
  13. ^ May 18, 2015 7:40 PM (2015-05-18). “Cannabis Oil Approved for Epilepsy Patients”. The Texas Tribune. Retrieved 2016-11-30.
  14. ^ “Texas Marijuana Lobby Day has ballooned in size — and potentially influence”. 2017-02-08. Retrieved 2017-02-20.
  15. ^
  16. ^ Rogers, Brian (2015-11-06). “DA: Marijuana now means a citation, not a ride to jail – Houston Chronicle”. Retrieved 2017-02-20.
  17. ^ Russo, Nick (2017-01-03). “No More Jail Time For Marijuana Misdemeanors in Harris County « 100.3 The Bull”. Retrieved 2017-02-09.
  18. ^ Posted 4:26 PM, January 2, 2017, by G. Trudeau (2017-01-02). “District Attorney Kim Ogg: No jail for marijuana misdemeanors | CW39 NewsFix”. Retrieved 2017-02-09.CS1 maint: Multiple names: authors list (link)
  19. ^ Houston Area to Decriminalize Some Low-level Marijuana Possession, Associated Press, February 16, 2017 – via US News