In recent years, vaping has become increasingly popular. Vapes are battery-powered devices that charge a coil and heat a liquid contained in an attached cartridge, which the user inhales.
Vape liquids come in a variety of flavors, which can be legally purchased. However, vape users have found that they can fill the cartridges up with tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the psychoactive substance of the marijuana plant that produces a "high." Although marijuana is legal in other states, in Texas, it is still unlawful to possess the substance.
A person could face serious penalties for having marijuana on them, and those penalties increase when they have the substance in a drug-free zone, such as a school. Sadly, many students are finding this out the hard way.
Vape devices have various shapes and sizes. Some look like USBs, and some are small enough to fit in a user's hands. Because they look like everyday items, it is difficult to tell that a person is using a vape. The device designs make it easy for students to take them to school and use them on campus. Unfortunately, when a student takes a THC-filled cartridge to school with them, they could be facing a felony charge.
Isn't Marijuana Possession a Misdemeanor in Texas?
In some cases, yes, marijuana possession is a misdemeanor. In others, it's a felony.
Under Texas Health and Safety Code 481.121, the level of charges a person faces for having marijuana are as follows:
- 2 ounces or less: Class B misdemeanor, which carries with it up to 180 days in jail and/or up to $2,000 in fines.
- 4 ounces or less but more than 2 ounces: Class A misdemeanor, a conviction carries with it up to 1 year in jail and/or up to $4,000 in fines.
- 5 pounds or less but more than 4 ounces: State jail felony, a conviction results in up to 2 years in jail and up to $10,000 in fines.
- 50 pounds or less but more than 5 pounds: Third-degree felony. A conviction carries up to 10 years in prison and up to $10,000 in fines.
- 2,000 pounds or less but more than 50 pounds: Second-degree felony. A conviction results in up to 20 years in prison and up to $10,000 in fines.
Marijuana Possession in a Drug-Free Zone
Although people might be aware that it's a misdemeanor to possess a certain amount of marijuana, they might not know of a law that increases possession penalties when a person has the substance in a drug-free zone.
Under Texas Health and Safety Code 481.134, the level of charge increases when a person has marijuana:
- Within 1,000 feet of a school, public youth center, or playground
- On a school bus
What Are the Increased Penalties for Marijuana Possession in a Drug-Free Zone
The level of charge a person faces for having marijuana in a drug-free zone depends on how much of the substance they have.
According to Health and Safety Code 481.134, a person could face the following charges and penalties for possessing marijuana on or near a school:
- If a person has 50 pounds or less but more than 5 pounds, the prison sentence is increased by 5 years, and the maximum fine is doubled.
- If a person has 5 pounds or less but more than 4 ounces, the offense becomes a third-degree felony.
- If a person has 4 ounces or less but more than 2 ounces, the offense becomes a state jail felony.
- If a person has 2 ounces or less, the offense becomes a Class A misdemeanor.
Unfortunately, students and/or parents might not be aware of the charges and consequences for possessing marijuana in a school zone. If administrators or teachers find a THC-filled vape cartridge on the student, they could be arrested for an offense.
Recognizing that people might not know about drug-free zone law, one school in Texas has started to show students a video that discusses the penalties for bringing marijuana on campus.
If your child has been charged with a juvenile crime in Bryan & College Station, reach out to our team at The Law Office of Shane Phelps, P.C. by calling us at (979) 773-7028 or contacting us online. We're committed to working toward a favorable outcome on your behalf.