If you’ve been arrested for misdemeanor marijuana possession in Houston, complications resulting from recent changes in Texas state marijuana laws could have a big impact on your case.
Recent changes in Texas marijuana laws have created a lot of problems, especially when it comes to testing evidence in misdemeanor marijuana possession cases. Under the new laws, marijuana containing less than 0.03% tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC (the compound in marijuana that causes you to get “high”), is now classified as hemp. Hemp is legal in Texas. However, marijuana with more than 0.3% THC is still classified as cannabis and is still illegal to possess in Texas.
With the new laws in place, prosecutors must prove that the marijuana you had in your possession when you were arrested is actually marijuana, which is illegal in Texas, and not hemp, which is not.
The State Must Now Prove Marijuana is Cannabis and Not Hemp
This has caused more problems than anticipated. Identifying evidence as marijuana is simple; determining its level of THC, not so much. Establishing the level of THC in marijuana seized during an arrest is a rather complicated procedure that most state drug testing labs weren’t equipped or certified to conduct when the laws were changed. To make things harder on the labs, the state legislature failed to include the extra funding needed for the new testing requirements when changing the law.
As a result, the rate of misdemeanor marijuana drug prosecutions has dropped dramatically in Texas. Before the laws were changed, there were over 5,000 misdemeanor possession cases filed each month; since the changes, that number has plummeted to around 2,000 cases per month.
Some counties are prosecuting cases as before, using private labs or relying on circumstantial evidence. Larger counties, such as Harris County, have the resources to develop their own testing protocols. Smaller counties, such as Galveston and Brazoria Counties, which rely on state DPS labs are still struggling to get caught up.
The new THC test protocols for state labs were finalized at the end of March, but DPS will require another two months to get them implemented. Then they’ll be faced with another problem: dealing with the massive backlog of cases that have accumulated since the laws were changed.
The Advantages of Fighting Misdemeanor Marijuana Possession Charges
If you’ve been arrested and charged with misdemeanor marijuana possession in Houston or Harris County, you have a choice: plead guilty, pay a fine and face possible jail time, or go to court to try and get the charges reduced or dropped. Why not just plead guilty, pay a fine, do some time in county and get it over with? Because of your future. A conviction for misdemeanor marijuana possession will remain in your background record for the rest of your life and will be seen by potential employers, lenders, landlords, school administrators, law enforcement and others.
Why not go to court? Even though you’ve been arrested and charged with misdemeanor possession of marijuana, it’s important to remember that you’re innocent of those charges unless proven guilty beyond a shadow of a doubt. Today, many prosecutors are basing their cases on circumstantial evidence; however, if a prosecutor can’t prove that the marijuana you were arrested with was cannabis and not hemp, they really don’t have a case.
Speak to an Experienced Houston Marijuana Defense Lawyer
The key to successfully beating a charge of misdemeanor marijuana possession is to hire an experienced Houston drug defense attorney. Lisa Shapiro Strauss is a former county prosecutor turned Houston criminal defense attorney who has helped many clients charged with misdemeanor drug possession. Her unique background allows her to anticipate and counter the actions of a prosecutor — which often results in reduced charges or even acquittal for her clients.
If you’re facing misdemeanor drug charges, don’t delay, reach out to Lisa Shapiro Strauss, Houston criminal defense attorney.