State Congressman Attempts to Reclassify THC Concentrates
In Texas’ last legislative session there were only four bills related to marijuana. In this session there are already nearly seven times that many. More and more Americans are changing their opinions about the drug with about 60 percent favoring legalization. Even Governor Greg Abbott, who has previously been staunchly anti-marijuana, has seemingly changed his mind. Gov. Abbott even signed the Compassionate Use Act (CUA) which legalizes medical marijuana for epilepsy and stated in a debate last year that he would be open to considering more exemptions under the (CUA) and perhaps even decriminalizing small amounts of cannabis.
Introducing a bill that would create new crimes and penalties for marijuana users seems quite out of touch considering the political climate mentioned above and at first glance that is what Texas State Congressman Terry Canales, Democrat representing District 40, seems to be proposing.
Creating a Separate Category for THC Concentrates
Texas state law in its current form considers THC concentrates to be hashish and not marijuana. This means that if you are in possession of a THC concentrate or edible and you are arrested, instead of facing a misdemeanor you could be facing a state jail felony or a Class 3 felony.
What Canales’ bill, H.B. 551, would do is separate possession, sale, and manufacture of marijuana concentrates into its own category of crimes instead of prosecuting concentrates as either marijuana or as hashish.
Canales’ law does somewhat reduce the penalties for possession. Currently, possessing less than one gram of THC concentrate is a state jail felony with a possible jail term of between 6 months and 2 years in addition to a $10,000 fine. Possessing more than a gram makes the crime a felony with a possible prison term of between 2 and 10 years as well as a $10,000 fine. For reference, a vape pen cartridge is about 1 gram a piece. If H.B. 551 is passed, mere possession of THC concentrates will only be misdemeanors if the amount is under 8 grams.
Carrying 4 grams of concentrate or less would only be a Class B misdemeanor, which still carries a potential 6 month jail sentence but that is definitely an improvement over having a felony on your record and spending 2 to 10 years in prison.
Under H.B. 551, the total amount of concentrate would determine the charge. Usually, THC concentrates are diluted or adulterated and Canales would include the amount of dilutants and adulterants in determining the weight of the concentrate. That means a person who puts a drop of THC concentrate in brownie mix could be facing life in prison under Canales’ law if that person delivers the tray of brownies to a friend.
Changing How THC Concentrates are Measured
Surely this result is not what good law reform looks like. To make sense, Canales’ proposal must be read along with another bill, H.B. 186, also introduced by himself. H.B. 186 is solely designed to change how law enforcement measures THC concentrates by excluding adulterants and dilutants. So in the above scenario, that drop of THC concentrate would be the only thing that would be measured and considered in determining the charge.
Putting THC concentrate into its own category under the statute makes the law more clear. Reducing penalties for THC concentrate possession is also a step in the right direction. Changing how law enforcement weighs THC concentrate by removing dilutant weight would assuredly reduce the seriousness of offense for the majority of people caught.
While H.B. 551 alone would not be much to cheer for, if passed in tandem with H.B. 186, Texas could be set to fix one of its most draconian anti-drug laws.