A little bit of weed.
One of the most common statements we hear from our clients lately is “what’s the big deal, it’s just pot.” If you’ve been watching the news (or not living under a rock), then you probably already know that the answer to that question is ever-changing in 2019. And, just as the legality and effects of marijuana possession can differ from Colorado to Texas or California to New York, so too are the details beginning to change from county to county and even city to city.
The big takeaway – pot is still illegal under federal law, and in Texas it is still illegal under state law. In fact, possession of ANY useable amount up to two ounces of marijuana is a class B misdemeanor in Texas which carries a possible punishment of up to six months in the county jail and up to a $2,000.00 fine, or both. Furthermore, legislative trends show that while other states are decriminalizing the possession and use of marijuana, Texas is digging in its heels and will likely be one of the last states to cave.
The next question then is, “do cops really care whether they catch you with marijuana?” The office of Goheen & O’Toole commonly represent clients who have recently moved to Texas and were used to the practice that police would simply confiscate any marijuana so long as the client was honest about it. However, across the vast majority of Texas, police DO still care about “a little bit of weed.” Whether an individual is honest or not about what might be found in their car, if the officer finds marijuana, they will still arrest.
Perhaps you’ve heard that major cities such as Houston and Dallas are no longer arresting but rather issuing citations for marijuana possession. This is true, but only applies to the specific municipality. That is, Dallas Police Department might find marijuana on a routine traffic stop and simply issue a citation, but Richardson Police Department, which is directly north of Dallas and part of Dallas County will still arrest on site if weed is discovered. Moreover, the policy decisions of cities such as Dallas and Houston are driven by monetary costs and a clogging of the court system, and are not indicative of a changing mentality of law enforcement or legislators in Texas.
If you live in the Dallas Fort Worth Metroplex, and occasionally find yourself in possession of cannabis, there are some positive policy changes that were recently enacted by the newly-elected District Attorney of Dallas County, John Cruezot. Upon taking office this past January, Cruezot announced that ALL first time offenders arrested for possession of marijuana would receive automatic dismissals at their court settings. Second time offenders could complete certain conditions and then receive a dismissal. Again, however, these policies ONLY affect Dallas County; neighboring counties of Denton, Collin, and Rockwall are still prosecuting individuals caught with marijuana in their possession.
Perhaps the biggest shock we’ve seen recently to our clientele in regards to marijuana, though, is the criminalization of THC liquids. The Texas Penal Code classifies any useable amount of marijuana under two ounces of weight as a class B misdemeanor. However, the actual THC substance is classified as a controlled substance under the same statutory schedule as “harder” drugs such as cocaine or methamphetamines. Because of that distinction, THC cartridges and “edibles” such as taffy or gummies are weighed and classified according to that schedule, and the same amount of THC as marijuana will carry a Second Degree Felony charge as opposed to the class B misdemeanor that covers the actual plant. That means, the 17 year-old caught vaping THC can be arrested for a Second Degree Felony while the friend next to him smoking a joint will only face a class B misdemeanor.
So what does all of this mean for our 420 fans? First of all, no matter what you hear on television, your friends, or your friendly neighborhood cop in Arizona, you can and will still be arrested for possession of marijuana in the state of Texas. Second, stay away from the edibles and the vapes because under current law they carry much much stiffer penalties than traditional marijuana. Lastly, if you are both committed to smoking weed and seriously concerned about your criminal record, you should stay within the limits of Dallas County. You will still get arrested, but for the first offense you will at least receive a dismissal. For all of you who live outside of Dallas County, remember to trust the attorneys at Goheen & O’Toole to help you navigate that marijuana charge until the state of Texas catches up to shifting paradigm of the rest of the country.