Texas Tech University

Where's it Legal? A Look at Marijuana Laws in the US

By: Miranda Wilson, Peer Educator

November 11th, 2020

Amid the 2020 election, a talking point that took place in many of the campaigns was the legalization of marijuana and cannabis.

You probably know the states that have made marijuana legal, such as Colorado and California. Still, sometimes we find ourselves forgetting that marijuana use and restrictions can differ wildly depending on individual state laws.

Today we're talking about the history of marijuana laws and we'll briefly describe the different uses of marijuana and marijuana laws in Texas to make sure all Texas Tech students are knowledgeable about the current state of marijuana in our state.

History of Marijuana Laws

The Marihuana Tax Act of 1937 effectively prohibited marijuana at the federal level. It was repealed in 1969 and replaced with the Controlled Substances Act in 1970. This act classifies marijuana and its cannabinoids as a Schedule I drug, meaning it has a high potential for abuse and no medical use. This act is still in effect today, meaning marijuana is illegal under federal law. While individual states may have decriminalized or legalized marijuana in some aspect, these measures only exist in that state's jurisdiction.

Marijuana began its path of legalization in Oregon. In 1973, Oregon decriminalized the drug. California was the first state to legalize medical marijuana in 1996. Then, in 2012, Colorado and Washington became the first states to legalize cannabis for recreational use.

As of October 2020, recreational marijuana is legal in Alaska, Washington, Oregon, California, Nevada, Colorado, Illinois, Michigan, Vermont, Massachusetts, and Maine.

Medical marijuana is legal in Montana, North Dakota, Minnesota, Utah, Arizona, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Missouri, Arkansas, Louisiana, Florida, Hawaii, Ohio, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Delaware, Connecticut, Rhode Island, and New Hampshire.

Additionally, CBD oil is legal in Idaho, Wyoming, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Texas, Iowa, Wisconsin, Indiana, Kentucky, Tennessee, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, and Mississippi.

map of marijuana legality

Map accurate as of October 2020

Medical Marijuana

The National Institute on Drug Abuse defines medical marijuana as "using the whole, unprocessed marijuana plant or its basic extracts to treat symptoms of illness or other conditions."

In short, medical marijuana includes cannabis and cannabinoids that are prescribed by physicians. The potential benefits and side effects of medical marijuana are often debated in the medical community, and rigorous testing and research have not been done due to its full extent due to federal restrictions.

Medical marijuana may be prescribed in capsules, lozenges, tinctures, patches, oral sprays, edibles, or dried buds.

Recreational Marijuana

Even in states that have legalized recreational marijuana, there are restrictions. Like alcohol, purchasers, and consumers of marijuana must be 21 years of age or older. Additionally, each state sets different limits on possession, ranging from 1 oz to 2.5 oz. For example, Oregonians may only possess up to 1 oz of marijuana, while Nevadans may possess up to 2.5 oz.

It is important to know and understand the various regulations of marijuana possession when visiting an unfamiliar state.'


CBD oil, or cannabidiol, is a non-psychoactive part of cannabis. Products containing CBD oil has strict limits on their THC content. CBD oil with limited THC content is typically produced from hemp plants, as opposed to mature marijuana plants.

CBD oil can be found in many products, such as oils, gummies, vapes, capsules, cream, edibles, waxes, and coffees.

Many shops, such as health food stores, specialty medicine shops, and CBD shops, sell hemp CBD products in Texas. Taking a look back at all of the products we've discussed so far, it is only legal to possess hemp CBD products in Texas. These products must contain under 0.3 perfect THC to considered hemp as defined by federal law.

Marijuana in Texas


It is legal to possess hemp-derived CBD products with less than 0.3 percent THC, purchased from a licensed shop.

Patients with seizure disorder, MS, ALS, and other specified illnesses may obtain a prescription to legally possess CBD oil with no more than 0.5 percent THC


pic of marijuana

All marijuana and marijuana-infused products are illegal in the state of Texas.

Possession of less than 4 oz of marijuana plant constitutes misdemeanor charges with fines up to $4,000 and up to one year of jail time. Possession of more than 4 oz constitutes felony charges with fines between $10,000 and $50,000 and between 180 days and 99 years of jail time, depending on possession amount.

When it comes to edible marijuana, wax, resin, oil, or cartridges, the law is even stricter. According to the 1989 Texas Controlled Substance Act, these extracted forms of marijuana are prosecuted as possession of a controlled substance, not as possession of marijuana. Possession of fewer than 4 grams of these products can result in a felony conviction and up to 2 years of jail time. Possession of 4 to 400 grams is a second-degree felony, bringing up to 20 years of jail time. Possession of more than 400 grams (or 80-oz) of marijuana extract products could constitute life in prison.

Additionally, edible marijuana products' total weight is used to calculate penalties, not just the THC itself. What does this mean? One bag of marijuana-infused gummy bears could lead to a second-degree felony charge and 20 years in prison.

To Sum it Up

We at RISE want you to stay safe, happy, healthy, and out of trouble with the law. While it may seem like marijuana consumption is just a common as alcohol consumption that is far from the truth at Texas Tech. Actually, 60% of Tech students have never tried marijuana. Whatever you decide to do with your body, make sure you are well educated about the potential personal, professional, and legal ramifications of your actions.

If you are from a state that has legalized recreational or medical marijuana and are struggling to quit since moving to Texas, check out our Raider Restart program for free individual coaching opportunities.


Back to all Posts