Clearing up the smoke on Austin marijuana laws: New resolution sparks disagreement


Nina Martinez

Currently, the sale of CBD is legal in Texas, while the sale of marijuana remains illegal. Cosmic Cowboy is a smoke shop and boutique on South Congress Avenue that sells a variety of CBD products and smoking accessories.

The Austin City Council approved to limit strict enforcement of low-level marijuana possession on Jan. 23. This resolution ends the spending of resources to detect if the plant is marijuana, or the recently legalized hemp flower.

The new resolution was passed with nine unanimous votes in under an hour and a half, according to the Texas Tribune. Austin Mayor Steve Adler was absent for the debate.

Residents present at the council debate brought up their concerns and wishes for change involving the lasting mark on criminal records for young people, the racial inequity of drug enforcement and the nonperformance of decriminalizing marijuana in the state.

This decision was not one made for the whole state of Texas, but the city of Austin. Those in favor of more lax marijuana laws hope the decision will lead toward criminal justice reform and improve racial equity.

Since 1931, marijuana has been and still is illegal under Texas State law. Washington, Oregon, Nevada, California, Colorado, Alaska, Illinois, Michigan, Vermont, Massachusetts, Maine and Washington D.C. have legalized the recreational and medical use of marijuana and 21 other states have legalized the medical use of marijuana.

This new resolution still leaves marijuana illegal in the state, but moving forward, law enforcement and attorneys have been ordered not to press criminal charges for low-level possession cases.

The issue being raised by attorneys is the difficulty to determine what type of cannabis the substance is. Without confiscating the substance and testing it for THC levels, it is difficult to rule if it is a legal or illegal form of cannabis.

So, what does this mean?

In 2018, the Texas Department of Agriculture (TDA) passed the Farm Bill, which legalized the commercial production of hemp. However, the key word is “commercial,” since growing hemp in Texas is illegal until approval is received by the United States Department of Agriculture.

Additionally, the demand for CBD has escalated in the past years due to it being one of the most successful herbal remedies. 

So, what is cannabis, hemp, marijuana, TCH and CBD?

Cannabis comes from the Cannabaceae family. Hemp is the term that categorizes types of cannabis containing 0.3% or less TCH. The term “hemp” is usually used to indicate cannabis that does not intoxicate and is commonly used in commercial production. Hemp is legal in Texas.

THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol, is a compound found in the glands of the cannabis plant. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), THC affects a person’s memory, pleasure, movements, thinking, concentration, coordination and sensory and time perception.

The term “marijuana” is the category of cannabis containing more than 0.3% THC. 

CBD, cannabidiol, is a chemical compound which derives from the sativa plant, a type of Cannabis. CBD is legal for purchase in Texas with THC levels under 0.3% THC.