Views on cannabis use slowly changing in Texas

The Compassionate Use Act enables people suffering from some forms of epilepsy to access low-THC cannabis for medical purposes without breaking drug laws. Although the state has started to embrace the medicinal use of cannabis, legislation to expand the legality of the substance has stalled among lawmakers. Two bills designed to reduce criminal charges and expand medicinal access, despite their bipartisan support, failed to pass.

The failed bills, however, illustrate the evolving attitudes in the state toward a substance that it has treated harshly for decades. Texas has long been a top state in the country for arresting people for possession of marijuana. In 2010 alone, law enforcement arrested over 74,000 people for possessing the drug.

There is a large pool of convicted offenders within the state, and questions have been raised about the fairness of their criminal records now that marijuana laws could become lenient in the near future. Other states that have allowed recreational marijuana use have developed systems for previous offenders to address their criminal histories. Typically, the process allows people convicted under harsh historical laws to get their felonies reduced to misdemeanors.

Although progress appears possible on the horizon, someone facing a drug charge could still face serious consequences like prison time, high fines and reduced employment opportunities. The representation of a criminal defense attorney might help a person receive fair treatment within the criminal justice system. To protect his or her client’s rights, a lawyer could question the police’s methods, like an unlawful search and seizure that violated the individual’s constitutional rights. The advocacy of an attorney could also lead to a plea deal with a lenient sentence. A lawyer could approach a prosecutor and challenge excessive criminal charges that the evidence does not readily support.