Marijuana Prosecution Declines in Denton

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The Lasso reported on September 18, 2020, that a Denton man was arrested on Texas Woman’s University’s campus and charged with felony possession after police three found three vials of liquid tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) in his car. Campus police pulled over the 20-year-old man, who is not affiliated with the university, in the 500 block of East University Drive around 5:25 a.m. after officers saw him driving down Bell Avenue with his headlights off.

Officers smelled marijuana and conducted a probable-cause search of the vehicle, finding an unspecified amount of marijuana and the vials of liquid THC. The man told police the drugs belonged to a friend.

The man was arrested for possession of a controlled substance between one-fourth of an ounce and 5 pounds, a state jail felony. He was transferred to the Denton County Jail.

Declines in Marijuana Prosecution in Denton
Declines in Marijuana Prosecution in Denton

The Lasso story suggests that authorities were classifying the liquid THC as a Penalty Group 2-A substance. THC concentrates have become more common in recent years because of the popularity of vaporizers, but THC penalties can be even worse than marijuana penalties in some cases.

Denton has largely seen a decrease in the number of marijuana prosecutions this year ever since the Texas Legislature changed the definition of marijuana last year in order to legalize hemp, drawing a new distinction between two substances that can look and smell the same. Marijuana went from being from the cannabis plant to cannabis containing more than 0.3 percent THC.

The Texas Tribune reported on February 26, 2020, that some law enforcement agencies in Texas have already found their own solutions to marijuana enforcement in the months since the law changed. For example, the district attorney in Denton County now requires police to submit a lab report before a case will be prosecuted, although First Assistant District Attorney Jamie Beck said that has not stopped arrests.

“Most of our agencies are using private labs,” Beck told the Tribune. “I’m going to assume they’re going to continue doing that.”

Beck said the county has seen a drop in marijuana cases, but not as large as the drop statewide, where cases have plummeted. She said some police agencies in her conservative county aren’t pursuing low-level marijuana cases anymore, but most are pursuing them even though it now costs more to do so.

In July 2019, the Denton Record-Chronicle reported that Denton County prosecutors would not bring new cases against people charged with possession of marijuana after Texas legislators inadvertently hindered law enforcement from being able to determine if something is hemp or marijuana. Jeff Fleming, chief of the intake and grand jury divisions for the Denton County District Attorney’s Office, told the Record-Chronicle that testing to determine THC levels will cost more than $600 in most cases.

Fleming said the cases with offense dates before June 10 will still work their way through the courts. And if police agencies themselves pay for the laboratory testing before bringing the charges to the district attorney’s office, Denton County will accept those cases.

The Texas Department of Public Safety runs most of the state’s testing labs. A DPS spokesperson told The Texas Tribune that DPS does not have the right equipment or resources to determine the hemp-marijuana line.

Along with DPS labs, Denton County prosecutors use private labs for general drug testing. Fleming said those labs include NMS Labs in Grand Prairie and Arlington-based Armstrong Forensic Laboratory.

People can still be prosecuted for possession of marijuana in Denton County, such as when someone is charged with dealing marijuana. Fleming said felony counts or large quantities of marijuana possession still will draw the attention of Paul Johnson, the Denton County district attorney, while misdemeanor cases will be considered for testing on a case-by-case basis.

KTVT-TV reported in March 2020 that the number of new marijuana cases filed in Denton County declined by only 8 percent. This was much less than the drop in other neighboring counties, such as Tarrant County, which saw a 68 percent drop, or Dallas County, where they fell by 52 percent.

The Denton County District Attorney’s office said the low number was, in part due to efforts to defer many cases prior to prosecution, in favor of rehabilitation efforts. It also attributed the statistic, in part, to its police departments’ willingness to pay for lab testing necessary for prosecution.

Marijuana Charges in Denton, TX

When it comes to THC concentrates in Denton, knowing or intentional possession of a controlled substance in Penalty Group 2-A is punishable as follows under Texas Health and Safety Code §481.1161:

2 Ounces or Less — Class B misdemeanor punishable by fine of up to $2,000 and/or up to 180 days in jail

4 Ounces or Less But More Than 2 Ounces — Class A misdemeanor punishable by fine of up to $4,000 and/or up to one year in jail

5 Pounds or Less But More Than 4 Ounces — State jail felony punishable by fine of up to $10,000 and/or up to two years in county jail

50 Pounds or Less But More Than 5 Pounds — Third-degree felony punishable by fine of up to $10,000 and/or up to 10 years in prison

2,000 Pounds or Less But More Than 50 Pounds — Second-degree felony punishable by fine of up to $10,000 and/or up to 20 years in prison

More Than 2,000 Pounds — Enhanced first-degree felony punishable by fine of up to $50,000 and/or minimum of five years up to 99 years or life in prison

Under Texas Health and Safety Code §481.113, a person can face the following penalties for knowingly manufacturing, delivering, or possessing with intent to deliver a controlled substance listed in Penalty Group 2 or 2-A:

Less Than 1 Gram — State jail felony punishable by fine of up to $10,000 and/or up to two years in county jail

1 Gram or More, But Less Than 4 Grams — Second-degree felony punishable by fine of up to $10,000 and/or up to 20 years in prison

4 Grams or More, But Less Than 400 Grams — First-degree felony punishable by fine of up to $10,000 and/or minimum of five years up to 99 years or life in prison

400 Grams or More — Enhanced first-degree felony punishable by fine of up to $100,000 and/or minimum of 10 years up to 99 years or life in prison

Marijuana offenses can be a much different story with regards to criminal charges right now in Denton. Possession of marijuana offenses involving 2 ounces or less are Class B misdemeanor offenses while those involving more than 2 ounces but less than 4 ounces are Class A misdemeanor offenses.

Anything over 4 ounces is a felony and may still be prosecuted in Denton, even with the difficulty in testing marijuana in Texas. People who have been convicted of any kind of marijuana crime in Texas should consider sealing or expunging their criminal records to prevent their crimes from impacting their professional lives.

Denton Domestic Violence Lawyer

Were you arrested for a marijuana or THC concentrate offense in the Denton area? You are going to want to have a skilled criminal defense attorney on your side when you go to court to address the criminal charges.

Make sure you contact The Law Offices of Richard C. McConathy to get a complete perspective on how your case could be handled and what options you might have. Our firm will be happy to sit down with you and take the time to go over all that you are facing when you call 940-222-8004 or contact us online to take advantage of a free, confidential consultation.

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