If you’ve been arrested for marijuana possession in Harris County, you find yourself facing misdemeanor charges. A conviction could mean jail time, fines or both. And the arrest will appear on your permanent record, which could make it hard to find a job, housing or schooling. However, recent changes in Texas hemp laws have made it harder for law enforcement agencies and prosecutors to pursue charges for marijuana possession.
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Does HB 1325 Legalize Cannabis in Texas?
Products made from cannabis are sweeping the country. In 2018, hemp industry sales topped $1 billion; this amount is expected to more than double by 2022. And the CBD market is expected to exceed $20 billion by 2022. Hemp production is skyrocketing; it’s natural that struggling Texas farmers would want a piece of this rapidly expanding market.
In response, Texas Governor Greg Abbott recently signed House Bill 1325. The law went into effect Sept. 1.
HB 1325 legalizes the production, manufacture, retail sale, and inspection of industrial hemp crops and hemp derived products like CBD oil. The law also changed the legal definition of marijuana from cannabis to cannabis that contains more than 0.3% of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). THC is the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana.
Basically, this means under 0.3% THC = legal cannabis; over 0.3% THC = illegal marijuana.
Current Crime Lab Tests Can’t Tell the Difference
So, how can this new definition help you if you’ve been arrested on marijuana charges in Harris County?
The lab tests used in marijuana possession cases in Harris County only show the presence of THC. The tests cannot tell if the marijuana in a drug case has a THC level of over 0.3%. There are tests capable of determining the level of THC in cannabis. However, only a few facilities are certified to perform the tests, and their services don’t come cheap.
The Harris County District Attorney’s Office said it will not pursue criminal charges for possession of marijuana for 4 ounces and under without a lab test proving a THC level of more than 0.3 percent. The Fort Bend County District Attorney said they will not prosecute new cases until THC concentration tests can be performed as well. Prosecuting Harris County felony marijuana possession charges will be decided on a per-case basis.
Answers to Your Questions About Marijuana Possession
What Happens if I Am Arrested with Marijuana in a Drug Free Zone?
Drug Free Zones in Texas are designated areas in which drug crimes are more severely penalized in two specific ways.
1. The punishment range is increased by one degree. For example, if the amount of recovered marijuana would normally result in a Class A Misdemeanor, this would be treated as a state jail felony.
2. The defendant’s eligibility for parole is affected. For a drug possession conviction, a defendant would be eligible for parole after serving 20% of their sentence. In drug-free zones, however, the defendant cannot be eligible for parole until they have served 5 years of their sentence. For sentences less than 5 years, they will serve their full sentence without being eligible for parole.
Is the Smell of Marijuana Probable Cause for a Search?
The general attitude towards marijuana possession is changing in many states, but in Texas it is still a crime to possess marijuana.
If you are in your car, the mere smell of marijuana is enough for officers to search you. A warrant is not necessary, nor does the smell need to be extremely potent or fresh.
If you are at home, the smell of marijuana is still enough for probable cause, but a warrant must usually be obtained prior to the police being able to conduct a search or arrest. However, law enforcement will often overstep boundaries while searching for evidence. Speaking to a knowledgeable Houston marijuana attorney after an encounter with law enforcement can help you determine whether or not they had the legal right to do so.
Are the Penalties for Vaping THC the Same as for Marijuana?
In Texas, marijuana is defined as the plant Cannabis Sativa L. Derivatives of the plant, such as resins and oils, are therefore not considered marijuana, and listed separately as penalty 2 drugs. This puts vape pens and other marijuana derivatives in the same category as Ecstasy, MDMA, PCP and mescaline. The penalties for a penalty group 2 drug conviction can be quite severe, and often include jail time as well as loss of your driver’s license.
Have You Been Arrested for Misdemeanor Marijuana Possession in Harris County?
While this new law is causing problems for prosecutors, it could be good news if you’ve been arrested for marijuana possession in Harris County. But getting your case dismissed requires experienced legal help.
If you’ve been charged with misdemeanor marijuana possession in Harris County, talk to Houston drug charges attorney Lisa Shapiro Strauss. Lisa is a former county DA turned criminal defense attorney. She’s on top of all recent changes in Texas hemp laws and how they apply in her clients’ cases.
Set up a free consultation with Lisa to review your case. She can help decide if recent changes in Texas’ marijuana laws can help you.