Texas: Marijuana Arrests Soar to Record High in 2018, Fall Significantly in 2019

Austin, TX: Texas police made just under 100,000 marijuana-related arrests in 2018, the highest total ever reported in the state.

According to an analysis by Texas NORML of Department of Public Safety data, police in 2018 made a record 96,130 arrests for marijuana violations. That total is 15 percent of all of the marijuana-related arrests made in the United States that year, and represents a nearly 20 percent increase in arrests since 2015.

Of those arrested in Texas in 2018, 80 percent were arrested for possessing less than two ounces of cannabis – the lowest state-level marijuana offense. Under state law, low-level marijuana possession is classified as a criminal misdemeanor, punishable by up to 180 days incarceration, a $2,000 fine, and a criminal record.

By contrast, marijuana-related arrests fell significantly in 2019, when police reported just over 45,000 marijuana-related arrests. The year-over-year decline followed the passage of House Bill 1325, which established rules and regulations for the production of industrial hemp. Absent a field test to distinguish between hemp and traditional marijuana, some police departments temporarily suspended making low-level marijuana-related arrests. However, various researchers claim that new technology will soon be available that will readily be able to distinguish between low-THC hemp and marijuana.

Commenting on the arrest totals, Jax Finkel, Executive Director of Texas NORML, said: “While other states are saving taxpayer dollars by no longer criminalizing the possession of marijuana, Texas has maintained the status quo. With Texas facing a $4.6 billion budgetary shortfall, a change in criminalization of marijuana would bring about necessary cost savings. During this pandemic, we are having to re-evaluate how we operate as a state and marijuana laws are a significant part of this conversation.”

For more information, visit Texas NORML.