It is illegal to cultivate cannabis for recreational use in Harris County. Although Texas has no specific laws prohibiting the cultivation of cannabis within its borders, the state still treats the cultivation of cannabis as a crime and punishes persons growing cannabis plants for marijuana possession. The penalty for possessing cannabis in Harris County includes jail terms of up to 99 years and fines reaching up to $50,000 depending on the amount or weight of cannabis plants found in possession of the cultivator.
However, a bill introduced by Senator Roland Gutierrez proposes to permit Texans to grow cannabis at home. Under SB 140, Harris County residents would be able to grow up to 12 cannabis plants at their residential units provided the cultivation is carried out in enclosed, locked, and secure areas. Cultivation areas, pursuant to SB 140, must be inaccessible to minors and located away from public view. Currently, SB 140 is pending before the Senate Committee on State Affairs.
Note that licensed medical marijuana dispensaries in Harris County can legally cultivate cannabis provided the cultivation is for medicinal marijuana purposes only.
Recreational cannabis manufacturing is illegal in Harris County in accordance with the Texas Controlled Substance Act. However, under the Texas Compassionate Use Act, dispensary organizations may manufacture cannabis provided they do so for medical marijuana purposes only. SB 140, if signed into law, will permit Harris County residents aged 21 and older to process cannabis at home. Note that SB 140 defines cannabis processing as the separation or preparation of cannabis plant components, mixing, compounding, extracting, infusing, or manufacturing of cannabis concentrates or cannabis products.
Pursuant to SB 140, Texans will not be permitted to process more than 12 cannabis plants at their residences per time. The bill would also require cannabis processing to be conducted away from public view, require processors to mitigate cannabis odors, and permit cannabis manufacturing operations only within Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS)-approved facilities.
The retail sale of adult-use cannabis is not permitted in Harris County. Licensed dispensary organizations, on the other hand, are permitted to sell medicinal cannabis to patients who have registered with the Compassionate Use Registry of Texas (CURT). A medical cannabis dispensary must verify a patient's registration and prescription in the CURT before selling medicinal cannabis to the individual. Dispensary organizations selling medical cannabis to unregistered individuals are liable to be severely punished according to Texas law.
The delivery of adult-use cannabis is illegal in Harris County as Texas prohibits the delivery of recreational cannabis in the state. However, licensed medical marijuana dispensaries are permitted to deliver medicinal marijuana to eligible persons. Pursuant to Section 481.120 of the Texas Health and Safety Code, there are stringent penalties for persons caught delivering cannabis illegally. The penalties for such an act vary depending on the amount of cannabis delivered by the offender at the time of arrest.
Although Texas does not issue physical medical marijuana cards to medical marijuana patients, it is still possible to obtain medical marijuana under the Texas Compassionate Use Act. To be eligible to use medical marijuana in Texas, the individual must suffer from one or more of these qualifying medical conditions:
After a potential patient recommended for cannabis therapy is assessed by a qualified physician, the doctor will determine whether the individual will benefit from low-THC medical cannabis and verify whether the medical benefits of cannabis use outweigh the risks involved with the patient’s use of the substance. If the doctor determines that a marijuana prescription is required, the patient will be registered with the CURT (Compassionate Use Registry of Texas). The CURT is a system established in Texas to allow qualified physicians register and prescribe medicinal cannabis to approved patients living with certain medical conditions. Through the CURT, medical cannabis dispensaries are able to validate the prescriptions and registrations of medical cannabis consumers when they visit to fill their prescriptions. Hence, medical cannabis users are not required to present written certifications from their doctors at Texas dispensaries. The CURT system is open and accessible to dispensing organizations and physicians at all times.
Note that you must be aged 18 or older and be a permanent resident of Texas to be registered in the CURT. Although the state does not yet make provisions for caregivers under its Compassionate Use Program, persons under 18 may require their parents or legal guardians to apply on their behalf. There are no fees required to register in the CURT.
By registering with the CURT, medical cannabis users can obtain any amount of low-THC cannabis. In Texas, medical cannabis users may not smoke any cannabis products even if they contain less than 1% THC.
The impact of the cannabis industry on the Harris County economy has been minimal as adult-use cannabis has not been legalized and medicinal marijuana sales are not taxed in the county. SB 140, currently in the state senate, if signed into law, proposes that the state imposes a 10% tax on cannabis and cannabis products. Consequently, the licensing and establishment of cannabis businesses will create jobs for Harris County residents and the county government can receive revenue through the imposition of excise taxes and sales taxes.
Per an independent study conducted by a top-ranked cannabis law and policy firm in the United States, if adult-use cannabis is legalized in Texas, the cannabis industry will create around 40,000 direct jobs for Texans. The study also projects that Texas could collect more than $1 billion in income each year, as well as around $10 million annually through license fees and license renewal fees.
Crime rates in Harris County for marijuana-related offenses have been on the rise since the legalization of medical cannabis in 2015. In the years preceding medical cannabis legalization, the record was 2,007 DUI arrests, 3,031 marijuana possession arrests, and 13 marijuana sales arrests in 2012. In 2013, Harris County recorded 1,935 DUI arrests, 2,890 marijuana possession arrests, and 12 marijuana sales arrests. In 2014, the record was 2,318 DUI arrests, 3,319 arrests for marijuana possession, and 12 arrests for marijuana sales. Harris County recorded 2,731 DUI arrests, 3,145 marijuana possession arrests, and 19 marijuana sales arrests in 2015.
In 2016, the year following the legalization of medical cannabis, Harris County recorded 2,839 arrests for DUI offenses, 3,144 arrests for marijuana possession, and 22 arrests for marijuana sales. In 2017, the record was 3,451 arrests for DUI offenses, 2,067 arrests for marijuana possession, and 20 arrests for marijuana sales. In 2018, the county recorded 3,804 DUI arrests, 1,919 marijuana possession arrests, and 29 marijuana sale arrests. In 2020, the DUI figures were much higher as Harris County recorded 4,058 DUI arrests, 759 arrests for marijuana possession, and 28 arrests for marijuana sales.