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The Voice of Experience Says Don't Legalize Pot

POM arrest.jpegA Colorado county sheriff urged the Texas Legislature to re-think its plans to expand legal marijuana use in the Lone Star State.

El Paso County Sheriff Bill Elder says that legal marijuana in Colorado has led to "an uptick in criminal activity. Violent criminal activity." Sherriff Elder, whose jurisdiction includes Colorado Springs, specifically pointed to illegal marijuana grow houses and the crimes they create. Sherriff Elder also cautioned against laws which allow people to grow their own marijuana.

Six lawmakers in Texas have filed medical marijuana expansion bills, and a Senator has proposed a constitutional amendment which legalizes marijuana for all purposes.

Texas Marijuana Laws

It's not unusual for law enforcement officers to speak out against marijuana legalization. Fewer crimes mean fewer criminals and, ultimately, fewer police officers. This opposition is especially prevalent in a place like Texas, where the marijuana possession laws are quite harsh.

Most POM (possession of marijuana) cases are Class B misdemeanors. If a person has less than two ounces of marijuana, the maximum punishment is six months in jail and a $1,000 fine. In many other states, possession of a small amount of marijuana is the equivalent of a traffic ticket.

A few cities, such as Houston, have decriminalized marijuana possession, at least to an extent. But these initiatives are just executive orders. The city which made them can rescind them tomorrow. Only the legislature can change the law. Most people expect the Texas Legislature to expand legal marijuana use this year. But recreational legalization is probably a long way away.

Dealing with Marijuana-Related Charges in Tarrant County

So, for the foreseeable future, local prosecutors will continue filing large numbers of marijuana cases. Fortunately, defendants in these situations have several options.

The aforementioned two ounces or less must be a useable quantity of marijuana. Burned pot and marijuana residue typically does not count. If Officer Cruz sees Sam smoking a joint, Officer Cruz may assume that the joint still has a useable quantity of marijuana and arrest Sam. But if the joint only contained burned marijuana, the charges probably will not hold up in court.

Legal possession may be a defense as well. In Tarrant County court, prosecutors must do more than establish proximity to establish possession. They must also prove:

·       Knowledge, and

·       Accessibility.

If Officer Cruz pulled over Sam and his friends in a car and arrested all occupants because he found a baggie of marijuana, Sam could literally be sitting on the marijuana and not possess it. If the prosecutor cannot prove that Sam knew the bag contained marijuana and that he could access the bag, the charges will not hold up in court.

Finally, some form of pretrial diversion is usually available in marijuana cases. If the defendant completes a pretrial diversion program and pays a small fine, the prosecutor will dismiss the charges.

If you face assault charges, there is no easy way out. For a free consultation with an experienced criminal defense attorney in Fort Worth, contact Herreth Law. We routinely handle matters in Parker County and nearby jurisdictions.

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