In Tarrant County's home state, Texas, medical marijuana is legal but highly regulated, while recreational marijuana is still illegal. Senate Bill 339, also called the Texas Compassionate Use Act, legalized (although strictly regulated) medical cannabis in 2015. Initially, only patients with intractable epilepsy could access cannabis oil with less than 0.5% THC. In 2019, the list of qualifying medical conditions was expanded by House Bill 3703 to include incurable neurological disorders, terminal cancer, seizure disorders, and autism.
The Texas Legislature passed House Bill 1535 in September 2021 to expand the qualifying conditions to include post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and all types of cancer and raise the legally permitted THC limit from 0.5% to 1%. Under the Texas Controlled Substance Act (TCSA), recreational marijuana in the state is considered illegal in compliance with the United States Controlled Substances Act. In September 2020, SB 140, an Act relating to the regulation of marijuana activities, was introduced on the state legislature floor. The bill, which took effect on September 1, 2021, amended the Texas Controlled Substance Act.
Cannabis cultivation implies propagating, growing, breeding, harvesting, drying, and curing cannabis plants by manual or mechanical means. Tarrant County does not have specific laws prohibiting marijuana cultivation. Section 491.051 (a)(3) of SB 140 authorizes adults in Texas, including those in Tarrant County, to cultivate not more than 12 cannabis plants in their private residences for medical purposes. However, the cultivation area must not be visible to the public without optical aid or aircraft, and the grower must restrict access to the site with locks. Section 491.052 of SB 140 also permits commercial marijuana cultivation. Commercial cannabis growers in Texas are authorized to cultivate medical cannabis for sale and distribution to other cannabis establishments. However, they must obtain the requisite state license and comply with all regulations set by the state's Department of Public Safety.
Medical cannabis processing (manufacturing) is legal in Texas, and no local law prohibits it in Tarrant County. Cannabis processing involves separating, preparing, blending, compounding, and extracting parts of a cannabis plant to make cannabis products or cannabis concentrate. Cannabis products are typically intended for consumption or use by humans, and they include ointments, oils, topical products, tinctures, and edible products. Per Section 419.051 (a)(4) of SB 140, an adult is authorized to process cannabis in their private residence for personal and medical purposes. However, they must not process more than the 12 cannabis plants legally allowed to be cultivated in their residence per time.
A person or an entity can also be licensed for commercial medical cannabis processing in Tarrant County. However, such license holders must ensure that cannabis processing is not visible to the public without using optical aid or aircraft. Also, they must not process cannabis products at locations other than the physical addresses approved by the Texas Department of Public Safety while establishing their processing facilities.
Medical cannabis dispensing is legal in Texas, per Section 488.053 of SB 140, and also in Tarrant County since no local ordinance prohibits it. The Texas Department of Public Safety licenses dispensing organizations to cultivate, process, and dispense medical cannabis to patients with recommendations for medical use of cannabis. The state designed a secure online medical use registry containing the names of registered physicians recommending medical cannabis. This registry is known as the Compassionate Use Registry of Texas (CURT). The portal also maintains each patient's name and date of birth and the amounts of cannabis dispensed to them.
Before dispensing medical cannabis to an individual with a recommendation from a registered physician, a dispensing organization must verify that such an individual is listed in the medical use registry as a patient. Once a dispensing organization dispenses medical cannabis to a verified patient, it must record the quantity and type of medical cannabis sold to the patient in the state's medical use registry. The record must show the date and exact time of the sale. Dispensing organizations in Tarrant County can dispense all forms of medical cannabis products, including edible cannabis.
Medical cannabis delivery is legal in Tarrant County, as stipulated in SB 140. However, the provisions of the SB 140 do not expressly state if a licensed dispensing organization can deliver medical cannabis to residential addresses or medical marijuana patients.
Currently, Texas does not issue medical marijuana cards to persons qualified for medical cannabis. Eligible patients in Tarrant County can access medical cannabis under the Texas Department of Safety (DPS) through the state's Compassionate Use Program (CUP). The CUP permits physicians registered under the CURT to prescribe low-THC cannabis for medical purposes. Qualifying medical conditions for CUP include spasticity, seizure disorders, autism, and epilepsy. Others are multiple sclerosis, terminal cancer, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, and incurable neurodegenerative disease.
Besides living with a qualifying medical condition, the patient seeking medical cannabis must be a permanent resident of Texas to be eligible for CUP. Also, a qualified physician must determine that the risk of using low-THC medical cannabis is reasonable considering the potential benefit. No Texas law requires patients to register for CUP independently or pay any fee. Only qualified physicians can enter patients' data into the Compassionate Use Registry to enroll them in the program.
While Texas law does not restrict patients' qualifications by age, patients under the age of 18 may need their legal guardians to enroll in the CUP. In such a case, the physician will be required to enter the legal guardian's name and the last five digits of their social security numbers (SSNs) in the CURT. Legal guardians can visit any licensed dispensing organization to fill the prescriptions of their patients who are minors by providing their IDs and the last five digits of their SSNs.
Although there are currently no figures or statements from official sources indicating how cannabis legalization has impacted Tarrant County and Texas, independent findings conducted in 2020 by a cannabis law and policy firm revealed promising benefits. The report suggested that Texas could create an additional estimated 20,000 to 40,000 direct jobs in the cannabis industry if the state runs a regulated recreational marijuana market.
According to the report, more than 1.5 million adults 21 years and over in Texas consume cannabis every month. It projected an estimated $2.7 billion annually in cannabis sales if Texas regulated recreational cannabis. The report also revealed that the state could generate more than $1.1 billion every two years in new state revenue and earn an additional $10 million annually from marijuana business licensing fees. Another key finding showed that ending arrests and prosecutions for offenses related to low-level cannabis possession in Texas would save the state approximately $311 million annually.
Texas legalized cannabis for medical purposes in 2015. Cannabis legalization has since impacted crime rates in the state, including Tarrant County. According to the Texas crime report for 2013 by the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS), law enforcement made 1,485 arrests for marijuana manufacture, 70,276 arrests for marijuana possession, and 74,792 DUI arrests. The 2014 crime report showed 1,641 marijuana manufacture arrests, 67,196 marijuana possession arrests, and 70,569 DUI arrests. In 2015, when medical marijuana became legal, the crime report revealed 1,672 arrests for marijuana manufacture, 61,748 arrests for marijuana possession, and 65,609 DUI arrests. While more arrests for marijuana manufacture were made by law enforcement in 2015 than the previous year, marijuana possession and DUI arrests declined drastically.
The Texas crime report for 2016 showed marijuana manufacture arrests in Texas declined to 1,536, while marijuana possession arrests increased significantly to 66,197. The year witnessed a notable decrease in DUI arrests (62,327). In 2017, the crime report by the DPS revealed a significant increase in arrests for marijuana manufacture (1,972) and DUI (69,242) and a notable decline in marijuana possession arrests (60,085) compared to 2016. The crime report published by the DPS for 2018 showed a further increase in arrests made for marijuana manufacture (2,735), marijuana possession (62,905), and DUI (73,978). Marijuana manufacture arrests (1,890), marijuana possession arrests (45,131), and DUI arrests (71,959) all declined, as seen in the 2019 Texas crime reports. The Texas crime report for 2020 showed an all-time low for marijuana-related and DUI arrests in the state. Law enforcement made 1,071 marijuana manufacture arrests, 23,681 arrests, and 60,906 DUI arrests.
While the DPS is yet to release the crime reports for 2021, the 2019 and 2020 reports indicate a reducing trend of marijuana-related and DUI arrests in Texas. Over the years, medical marijuana has been heavily regulated until the introduction and passage of SB 140, a bill that amended the Texas Controlled Substance Act. More businesses have moved from the illegal marijuana market to the legal market, and law enforcement now makes fewer arrests. The 2021 Texas crime report will possibly reveal even fewer arrests than in 2020.