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What Every Smoker Needs to Know about Houston’s New Marijuana Policies

BETHPAGE, NY - AUGUST 30:  A closeup view of marijuana in a grinder along with a cigarette as photographed on August 30, 2014 in Bethpage, New York.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

Ever since being elected, our new District Attorney Kim Ogg has been making some incredible improvements to the Harris County justice system. Of those changes, the most popular has easily been her rational approach to handling marijuana possession. Under the new policy, known as the Misdemeanor Marijuana Diversion Program, anyone caught with four ounces of marijuana or less is given the option to attend a drug-education course in exchange for dismissal of their possession charges. No arrest, no citation, no criminal record.

That said, don’t start pulling out your lighters just yet. There are still some important gray areas and exceptions to this new policy.

  • Marijuana Is Still Illegal.

While the district attorney can change enforcement policies, they cannot change the law. As much as we wish this were not the case, marijuana is still illegal in Texas, which means that it’s illegal in Harris County. With that in mind, there are a few ways marijuana can get you in trouble.

  • You Still Can’t Smoke Marijuana.

Getting caught smoking marijuana is not the same as getting caught in possession of it.  Smoking marijuana is not illegal, but possession of it is. Say you’re smoking in a parking lot before a concert and a cop catches you in the act. Even if all you had on you was one joint, you can still be charged with possession of marijuana, public intoxication or other related charges. This is doubly true for anyone smoking in a car because you can get a DWI for being high on marijuana.

  • The Policy Only Applies to Marijuana in Plant Form.

THC extracts and concentrates like wax or hash are not covered under the new policy. Although it is ridiculous, possession of THC concentrates is a felony and would thus fall out of the bounds of the Misdemeanor Diversion Program.

  • You Can Still Be Ticketed for Paraphernalia

If a cop finds your dirty pipe alongside your stash, you can still receive a Class C Misdemeanor for the pipe, the same level of charge as a speeding ticket. While it is extremely uncommon for a Class C misdemeanor to result in an arrest, you will still have to pay a fine. However, if your pipe, bong, vaporizer etc. is brand new and unused, it is not legally considered paraphernalia. Found on its own, a new smoking accessory cannot get you in trouble despite what a cop might try to make you think.

  • You Can’t Possess Marijuana in Certain Areas

If you are caught in possession of marijuana in a school, a correctional facility, a courthouse or any other drug-free zone, you can still be charged with a crime. Even if you’re not driving under the influence, getting caught near a school with weed could still get you arrested even though it wouldn’t elsewhere.

  • People on Bond or Probation Can Still be Arrested for Possession

If you’re serving probation or are out on bond for a separate offense, you can still be charged with a crime for simple marijuana possession.  You are not allowed to smoke or possess marijuana while on bond or probation.  The same is true for those in a deferred adjudication agreement.  And you can’t say that you went to Colorado and smoked it, it’s still illegal to drink or smoke weed in other states while on bond, probation or deferred.

  • Incorporated Cities Are Gray Areas

In Harris County, certain areas like Memorial Villages and Jersey Village have incorporated as their own cities with their own police departments. In these areas, Class C citations are handled within their own small courts and are not under Harris County jurisdiction. However, any arrestable offense above a Class C involves a trip to the Harris County Jail. While, a Jersey Village police officer might still decide to arrest you for simple marijuana possession, the charges would inevitably be dropped by the Harris County DA’s office.

  • Selling Is Still a Felony

Only simple possession is decriminalized in Harris County. If you possess over four ounces, or there is other evidence that you intend to sell marijuana such as suspicious packaging, you can and will be arrested and charged with a felony.

Don’t Let Your Rights Go Up In Smoke!

Until the day marijuana is officially legalized in Texas, confusing laws and unbalanced enforcement will continue to be an issue. Whether they improperly weigh your stash or tack on a nonsense charge, cops can still find ways to invalidate your eligibility for the program.

 

If you find yourself in a bad situation, don’t just wait it out or try to handle it yourself. Contact the team at Thiessen Law Firm for a free consultation. From drug crimes to DWI defense, we fight tirelessly for our clients.

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