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Public outcry over drug arrests in Texas

Three recent arrests have led to public outrage over the possibility the young people may face a minimum mandatory of 10 years in prison up to lifetime indeterminate sentencing. All three were stopped for unnamed traffic violations in the Panhandle, and all three were caught with marijuana edibles, including brownies and chocolate bars.

In Texas, an amount of less than two ounces of marijuana is punishable as a Class B misdemeanor. If a person takes more than 2 ounces of marijuana and instead uses it to bake edibles, the entire weight of the product is all counted as a controlled substance. One example is simply cooking two ounces of marijuana with four sticks of butter to make candy. The resulting weight would be around 454 grams.

As more and more states move to legalize and decriminalize marijuana, Texans are still facing severe sentences for things deemed legal elsewhere. Three hours from Amarillo lies Trinidad, Colorado, where people can legally buy chocolate bars that contain marijuana. If they then bring several of those back to Texas, they could potentially face life in prison. While law enforcement officers say they are simply bound to uphold the law, police and prosecutors both have discretion in how they treat and charge individual people.

People who are facing criminal charges have a right to defend against the allegations against them. In a case in which a stop and search of a vehicle has occurred, a criminal defense attorney may investigate whether the officer had probable cause or reasonable suspicion to initiate the stop in the first place. He or she may then file a motion to suppress all evidence seized in the case.

Source: Lubbock Avalanche-Journal, "It started with purple brownies: Drug policy creates local outcry in Panhandle," JC Cortez, March 30, 2015.

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