YOU’RE PULLED OVER AND HAVE CANNABIS IN YOUR CAR, WHAT DO YOU DO?
A traffic stop is the most common way the average citizen interacts with law enforcement. In El Paso County alone, about 20,000 citations are written each month.
If you’re pulled over and have an arrest warrant, you’ll be carted off to jail.
Even worse, if you’re pulled over and a cop gets a whiff of the weed in your car, you have bigger problems than just a traffic citation.
IS THE SMELL OF MARIJUANA PROBABLE CAUSE TO SEARCH?
Absolutely. The Texas courts are pretty clear about that. If an officer smells marijuana, it provides him probable cause to search certain areas of your vehicle. It does not give him probable cause to search you. An officer might tell you, “your car smells like weed, you might as well come clean” or “you know I’m going to search it anyway, so you might as well let me do it.”
Do not consent to search.
Do not admit that there’s weed or other drugs in the car.
You are making the officer’s job easier and incriminating yourself! Stop it! Do not give up your constitutional rights so easily. And never, ever admit ownership!
Sometimes, a crafty cop uses the smell of marijuana as an excuse to get you to consent to search. Once you consent, it’s a lot harder for your attorney to challenge the search as illegal.
That same crafty cop might pat you down for “weapons” and try to pull things out of your pocket, or feel something and ask you, “what’s in your pocket?” It doesn’t matter if it’s a baggie of cannabis or cocaine, do not tell the officer what’s in your pocket. Do not willingly pull it out of your pocket. Like I said before, the smell of marijuana is not probable cause to search you. Unless you are under arrest or give consent, a search of your person is not allowed – only a pat down for weapons for officer safety.
So, what do you say?
Sir/Ma’am, I do not have any weapons in my pocket, and I do not consent to a search of my person/pants/socks/shoes (whatever they are trying to search).
IF I DON’T CONSENT, AM I OBSTRUCTING JUSTICE?
Absolutely not! This rumor is going around and it’s totally false! Exercising your constitutional right not to consent to search is not a crime. No officer will charge you with obstruction (interfering) unless you’re committing an overt act to impede the investigation or throwing out evidence (tampering).
I GOT CAUGHT WITH DRUGS, WHAT’S NEXT?
You’ll be charged with a crime, and arrested, unless you’re caught with drug paraphernalia (Class C misdemeanor) or in a jurisdiction that has a cite and release program for misdemeanor levels of marijuana. In Texas, drug offenses are categorized by the type of drug and the amount you had. Any amount of cocaine, meth, MDMA and many other drugs is a felony.
WHICH TYPE OF DRUG WAS IT?
Drugs are categorized in Penalty Groups. Even the smallest amount of Penalty Group 1 or 2 drugs is a felony.
Penalty Group 1 and 1A includes opiates and opium derivatives (painkillers like oxy, hydrocodone and codeine), coke, heroin, methamphetamine, LSD and the like.
Penalty Group 2 or 2A includes THC concentrate, ecstasy/MDMA, shrooms, amphetamines and the like.
Penalty Group 3 includes opiates and opioids not in Penalty Group 1 (e.g., Valium, Adderall, Ritalin).
BUT IT’S JUST WEED!!!
Texas has some pretty strict marijuana laws and it does not treat all cannabis products equally. Edibles get you in way more trouble than raw flower. If you’re caught with anything under 4 ounces of flower, you’ll be charged with a misdemeanor. The punishment ranges up to $4,000 in fines and up to a year in jail. Anything above 4 ounces of flower is a felony. Even though the punishment seems harsh for these misdemeanors, judges and prosecutors are caring a lot less about small amounts of marijuana and you’ll likely face less-strict punishments, rehabilitative programs, or alternatives to incarceration.
Edibles contain tetrahydrocannabinols (THC), the active ingredient in cannabis. THC concentrate is an automatic felony in Texas. Even an almost empty cartridge or wax residue is a state jail felony.
Drug weight includes any adulterants and dilutants that are mixed with the THC. If you have a cookie, the weight of the baking ingredients counts against you. If you have a gummy, the whole gummy will be weighed.
Let’s take an example: a standard size gummy bear with THC in it. You’ll be surprised to learn that your little bear weighs 2.2 gram! So, if he’s in your pocket and you’re searched, you’ll be charged with a third-degree felony. Have two of them? That will be a second-degree felony!
I HAVE A MEDICAL MARIJUANA OR CANNABIS CARD FROM ANOTHER STATE. I’M GOOD, RIGHT?
There’s no denying that cannabis has health benefits. Texas is years behind other states in acknowledging that fact. If you have a medical marijuana card in another state, remember that it doesn’t mean much here in Texas. Even if you legally purchase the cannabis product in Vegas, for example, it is still illegal to have it here in Texas.
CBD PRODUCTS ARE EVERYWHERE. WHAT’S THE 411 ON CBD?
The definition of illegal marijuana changed in 2019. Now, any cannabis-derived substance that has .3 percent or less THC is legal. Such a substance is categorized as hemp, not weed, and can be grown, sold or used to make CBD products in Texas.
WHAT’S THIS COMPASSIONATE USE ACT?
The Compassionate Use Act allows Texans with qualifying conditions to purchase and use “low-THC” cannabis. Low-THC means .5 percent THC or less, so it’s just a tiny-bit stronger than CBD.
People with conditions such as epilepsy or a seizure disorder, autism, multiple sclerosis, terminal cancer and a few other diseases qualify. However, only a handful of doctors meet the requirements for prescribing low-THC products.
It’s not a great start, but it’s a start.
If you are a Texas and feel strongly about legalizing cannabis, several organizations constantly lobby for change. Check out Texas NORML or other pro-cannabis organizations in your area. Get involved or follow these organizations on social media.
Check out Texas NORM, here: