Texas Drug Laws: A Breakdown of Controlled Substances

Texas has particularly strict laws around controlled substances and narcotics. The state’s laws are also complicated. The laws are explained in the Texas Penal Code and the Texas Controlled Substances Act, Health and Safety Code. Here’s a basic summary of Texas drug laws: If the police find drugs on you in Texas you can face:

  • Jail time
  • Probation
  • Hefty fines
  • Mandatory drug addiction treatment
  • Temporary suspension of your driver’s license

Most prescribed drugs are legal in Texas. However, even with a prescription, charges for drug possession can apply in certain circumstances. Charges depend on:

  • The type of drug
  • The amount of prescription drugs you have
  • Whether you have a valid prescription or order from a health care provider to use the drug at that dose

The details can be confusing. Even after reading about Texas drug laws, many people still want to know: Is possession of a controlled substance a felony in Texas? The answer depends on several factors. Here’s a breakdown of Texas drug laws to help you understand more about the state’s laws, including which drug penalties are misdemeanors, and which ones are felonies.

Texas Drug Laws and Penalty Groups

Under Texas drug laws, offenses and punishments for drug possession fall into four groups according to drug classification. The groups are called Penalty Group 1, 2, 3 and 4. Marijuana is in its own group. The charges for drug possession in each penalty group varies. At a minimum, the charge for drug possession in Texas is either a “Class B” or “Class A” misdemeanor. This carries a penalty of up to one year in jail and a fine of up to $4,000, depending on the type of drug. For example, if you’re in possession of a drug that falls into Penalty Group 1, the charge may be considered a misdemeanor with one to two years in jail and a fine to be determined in court. However, this charge may increase from two years to a maximum of life imprisonment plus fines of up to $250,000 for possession of a larger amount of the same substance, say 400 grams or more. With larger amounts of certain substances, the charge may be a first-degree felony for “drug possession with intent to distribute.” In addition to the quantity of drugs you have, other factors will determine the severity of the charge. This includes whether it’s considered “intent to deliver.” These factors  may also include:

  • How you store or conceal the drug
  • If you possess any drug paraphernalia (i.e., scales)
  • Having large amounts of cash
  • Having past convictions and/or prior offenses

Texas Drug Laws and Drug Categories. Different drug categories or classifications in Texas have different penalties. Marijuana is in its own drug category with its own penalties. It’s independent of the other four drug classes or penalty groups. Some drug types fall into two categories. For example, the painkiller hydrocodone is both a narcotic and a depressant.

Drug Categories in Texas

Texas categorizes types of drugs as follows: Narcotics (drugs made or derived from the opium poppy): opium, morphine, codeine, hydrocodone (commonly known as Vicodin, Lorcet, Lortab), oxycodone (commonly known as Percodan, Percocet), fentanyl and carfentanil, among others. Depressants (drugs that slow body functions and are used as sedatives or tranquilizers to calm the nerves or help someone sleep): opiates (heroin), opioids (painkillers), barbiturates, benzodiazepines (commonly known as Alprazolam/Xanax, Lorazepam/Ativan, Diazepam/Valium and Temazepam/Restoril), chloral hydrate (commonly known as Somnote), a range of inhalants, and alcohol. Stimulants (drugs that speed up the nerves and make you more alert): cocaine, amphetamines (speed), and some inhalants, among others. Hallucinogens (drugs that alter perception, mood or emotion and thought): LSD (acid), PCP, marijuana (cannabis), mushrooms (psilocybin), ketamine and peyote or mescaline, among others.

Penalty Groups in Texas

Drug categories fall into different penalty groups in Texas. Penalties can vary by whether you’re making the drug, selling it or possessing it. Penalty groups are as follows: Penalty Group 1:  Opioids (including painkillers like codeine, hydrocodone and oxycodone), opium derivatives and/or opiates (heroin and others), cocaine, methamphetamine, ketamine, LSD, mescaline, psilocybin and similar hallucinogens. The penalties in this group start at 180 days to two years in jail and a $10,000 fine. They can go up to a maximum of life imprisonment (for possession of 400 grams or more) with fines up to $300,000. Penalty Group 2: LSD, Ecstasy (MDMA), PCP, psychedelic mushrooms and amphetamines The penalties in this group begin at 180 days to two years in jail for possessing less than one gram. You can get a maximum sentence of life imprisonment for possession of 400 grams or more, with fines up to $50,000. Penalty Group 3: Opioids and opiates not listed in Penalty Group 1, benzodiazepines and sedatives like Valium and others, anabolic steroids, methylphenidate (commonly known as Ritalin), and other prescription drugs that have either a stimulant or depressant effect and potential for abuse. The penalties in this group are a minimum of 180 days to two years in jail and fines up to $10,000. The maximum sentence is life in jail (for possession of 400 grams or more) with fines up to $50,000. Penalty Group 4: Opioids and opiates not listed in Penalty Group 1, and a range of prescription medications and various chemical compounds that have a potential for abuse. Penalties are similar to those for Penalty Group 3. Marijuana Group: Marijuana (cannabis) and synthetic marijuana or synthetic cannabinoids (commonly known as K2 and Spice, among others). The minimum penalties in this group can be  probation and mandatory drug treatment. Sometimes the charge is dismissed after successfully completing a treatment program. You could also get penalties like 180 days in jail and fines of $2,000 for possession of two ounces or less. Even if you only have a small amount of marijuana, they’ll likely suspend your driver’s license for six months. Possession of more than two ounces of marijuana puts you at risk of penalties of one to 10 years in jail, and fines from $4,000 to $50,000. It is important to remember that in Texas the severity of a drug charge is highly variable depending on the circumstances of each case. If you’re facing drug charges in Texas, seek legal representation.

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