Drug Crimes

Marijuana Possession and Work in the Cannabis Industry May Lead to Denial of Naturalization

By Peek & Toland on July 12, 2019

One of the requirements for naturalization as a U.S. citizen is to establish good moral character (GMC). U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) recently published a policy memorandum stated that any violation of federal controlled substance laws could be a conditional bar to establishing GMC, including offenses related to marijuana. Although USCIS acknowledges that simple possession of marijuana may not be illegal under some states’ laws, it is still illegal under federal law. Despite the decriminalization of marijuana to specific degrees in many states, all conduct that involves the possession, manufacture, cultivation, or distribution of marijuana remains illegal under federal law and thus can impact the establishment of GMC.

Marijuana Possession and Work in the Cannabis Industry
May Lead to Denial of Naturalization

Under federal law, marijuana remains a “Schedule I” controlled substance. Schedule I drugs are among those controlled substances that have the highest risk of misuse, are most dangerous to the public and have no accepted medical uses. Many states have removed marijuana from this category of controlled substances under state law, but Congress has not followed suit. This has resulted in many state laws that are in direct conflict with federal law on the issue of marijuana. Texas law does classify marijuana differently than other controlled substances but has not taken steps to decriminalize marijuana in any amount, except for a recent expansion of medical marijuana usage for various illnesses and medical conditions.

As a result of this conflict between state and federal law in some states, marijuana possession that would not result in a criminal conviction in some states remains illegal under federal law. A criminal drug conviction not only can put individuals at risk of deportation, depending on their immigration status but also can endanger their ability to obtain naturalization. Therefore, an activity not illegal under state law, but illegal under federal law, can threaten one’s immigration status and lead to a denial of naturalization. When you have any criminal conviction on your record, even for minor marijuana possession, you may not only be at risk of denial of naturalization, but also of deportation. In these circumstances, you need an experienced immigration attorney to represent your interests from the very beginning of your case. Taking steps to get you the relief that you are seeking at the outset of your case is typically easier than waiting until it’s too late. Contact Peek & Toland at (512) 474-4445 today and set up an appointment to speak with our legal team.

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Marijuana Decriminalization in Texas

By Peek & Toland on July 10, 2019

Ten bills related to marijuana decriminalization were before the Texas legislature during the most recent legislative session, one of which was successful and many others that were not. The only piece of legislation that survived this session was a slight expansion of the eligibility criteria for medical marijuana usage, in the form of cannabis oil. CBD oil from dispensaries under the medical use program has a maximum THC level of 0.5, which is not significantly different from CBD oil sold in retail stores, which is to contain a maximum THC level of 0.3.

Previously, the only condition eligible for legal medical marijuana usage was intractable epilepsy. The new legislation recognizes that other medical conditions may benefit from medical marijuana, including autism, epilepsy and seizure disorders, multiple sclerosis (MS), spasticity, terminal cancer, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), and some incurable neurological diseases, including Alzheimer’s Disease, Parkinson’s Disease, and Huntington’s Disease.

Marijuana Decriminalization in Texas

Various issues remain problematic with the new legislation. For instance, Texas law requires a prescription for medical marijuana and CBD oil from a dispensary. However, federal law prohibits doctors from prescribing Schedule I controlled substances, which includes marijuana. While Texas law provides a workaround, doctors are still somewhat at risk if they prescribe medical marijuana.

A lack of regulation still exists as to CBD oil. Although many oils are labeled as being free of THC, there is the chance that they still contain trace amounts of THC, as there are no standard regulations that apply to the production and distribution of CBD oil. Furthermore, law enforcement officers in different parts of the state still consider CBD oil differently. Some counties consider CBD oil illegal unless produced by state-sanctioned dispensaries for medical purposes. This stance has led to raids and seizures of CBD oil in retail stores in some Texas counties.

The Peek & Toland criminal defense lawyers are here to represent your interests and advise you of the best course of action in your situation. Set up an appointment to talk to us today and discover how we can assist you with your criminal proceedings.

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Marijuana Arrests Still Dominate in Some Counties and States

By Peek & Toland on July 2, 2019

According to a recent article relying on FBI data, marijuana possession led to six percent of all arrests nationwide in 2017. This arrest rate, however, is not consistent from one state to the next, or even from one county to the next within the same state. In some counties, the arrest rate for marijuana possession is in the 20 percent range, which tops out at 55 percent in one Georgia county.

Various reasons support these high rates of arrest. First, the federal government provides generous funding for drug task forces. Forfeiture laws also often allow law enforcement agencies to seize and keep money and other assets from those accused of drug crimes. Furthermore, marijuana may be easier for law enforcement authorities to spot, simply because it is bulky, meaning that individuals cannot easily conceal it, and has a strong and distinctive odor, especially in comparison to other controlled substances.

Marijuana Arrests Still Dominate in Some Counties and States

With the legalization of marijuana occurring rapidly in many states, however, the emphasis that some law enforcement agencies place on prosecuting individuals who use marijuana may be unwarranted and a waste of precious resources. Moreover, law enforcement efforts to stop drug activity most commonly result in the prosecution of drug users and small distributors who deal solely to support their habit, as opposed to the major distributors or those who run high-level drug dealing enterprises.

Nationwide, more conservative states, including Texas, who have not legalized any marijuana usage, have had higher arrest rates for marijuana possession than the national average. Two counties in Texas had the third and fourth highest arrest rates for marijuana possession in the U.S. In contrast, states that have legalized marijuana to some degree have much lower than average arrest rates for marijuana possession. When facing any criminal law issue, you are likely to need the legal advice that only experienced Texas criminal defense attorneys can offer you. Peek & Toland provides strong legal representation regularly for individuals who are dealing with criminal law problems. It is our priority to represent your interests and protect your rights.  Call us at (512) 474-4445 and schedule an appointment to speak with us today.

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CBD: Legal in Texas?

By Peek & Toland on June 24, 2019

State lawmakers in the two largest states, California and Texas, are pushing bipartisan legislation that would legalize CBD products, even though the federal government continues to consider it illegal. Despite efforts in some localities in both states to pull CBD products from store shelves, including CBD oil-infused gummies, foods, drinks, and dietary supplements, there is an enormous push to legalize what many see as a boon to their overall health.

At the federal level, Congress members also are pushing the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to reconsider its stance on the popular cannabis compound. Recently, the FDA announced that it will conduct a public hearing to solicit more information on the subject. The FDA maintains oversight over CBD because it is the active ingredient in a prescription drug that treats two rare seizure disorders and contends that it has insufficient information to determine whether CBD is safe or effective to add to food and drink products.

Nonetheless, the FDA has limited enforcement to companies that make false health claims about their products. Federal authorities also have largely failed to take any action against companies producing CBD products in states in which marijuana has been legalized on a recreational or medical level. Instead, state or local authorities have headed up most enforcement efforts.

Legislation in both Texas and California is pending that lawmakers hope will end consumer confusion and allow individuals to purchase products containing CBD oil. The pending legislation in Texas, HB 1325, as amended, most recently went to the governor’s office for his signature. In addition to legalizing CBD oil containing less than three percent THC, the bill also would permit farmers to grow hemp. The Peek & Toland criminal defense lawyers are here to represent your interests and advise you of the best course of action in your situation. Set up an appointment to talk to us today and discover how we can assist you with your criminal proceedings.

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Texas Department of State Health Services to Remove Hemp as Schedule I Controlled Substances

By Peek & Toland on May 30, 2019

The Texas Department of State Health Services recently announced that it will remove hemp from its list of Schedule I controlled substances. Schedule I contains drugs that are highly dangerous, addictive, and typically have no accepted medical use. Other notable Schedule I drugs include cocaine, LSD, and heroin.

Nonetheless, the move does little to clarify the legal status of products containing hemp that many stores already sell in Texas, including gummies, creams, and oils. As of right now, hemp remains illegal. Hemp, unlike marijuana, contains low levels of THC, which is the psychoactive compound found in the cannabis plant that produces a high in user. Nonetheless, state law currently prohibits the possession and sales of both hemp and marijuana as the same substance in most circumstances. Only patients with intractable epilepsy and prescriptions issued by two doctors can purchase cannabis products that contain up to 0.5 percent THC. Any other hemp products must contain no THC to be legal in the state of Texas.

The declassification of hemp as a Schedule I controlled substance only partially brings it into compliance with current federal law. Last year, Congress legalized hemp containing less than 0.3 percent THC. As a result, the Texas legislature would need to amend its current definition of hemp and the accompanying penalties for buying and selling it to comply with federal law. Although legislation is pending in the Texas legislature, it is debatable whether the proposed legislation will pass before the end of the current legislative session.

This continuing confusion under Texas law is leading to different legal repercussions for shops that sell CBD oil in different jurisdictions. While Dallas County has not prioritized enforcing laws regarding hemp on shops selling CBD products or consumers who purchase, the Tarrant County district attorney issued a statement that CBD oil is illegal. This statement led to police raids of shops selling CBD oil in Fort Worth. A complicating factor is that even if law enforcement authorities do file charges regarding the possession or sales of hemp products, they often end up dropping the charges because they must have each individual product tested to prove it is illegal under state law.

An experienced Texas criminal defense attorney can help you build a strong defense against any criminal charges. We are here to evaluate the facts surrounding your case, present your options, and help you make the decisions that will be most beneficial to you, based on your circumstances. Contact Peek & Toland at (512) 474-4445 today and see how we can help.

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Marijuana Oil and Texas Law

By Peek & Toland on April 17, 2019

Vaping pens and e-cigarettes quickly have become big business in the tobacco industry. Nonetheless, some individuals have found a new use for vaping devices as a mechanism for smoking pot that tends to be far more discreet than smoking joints or using bongs. By using marijuana in oil, wax, or liquid form and placing it in a vial, users simply can drop it into a vaping pen or e-cigarette instead.

The problem is, possessing even a small amount of marijuana in oil, wax, or liquid form could result in felony charges, as opposed to a small amount of loose or dried marijuana, which is typically a misdemeanor offense. Due to the differences in weight and characterization under Texas law, possession of marijuana or THC oil is likely to cause far more severe criminal charges than those for possession of marijuana in its traditional form.

Marijuana Oil and Texas Law

Texas law remains strictly anti-marijuana, especially as compared with the numerous states that have legalized small amounts of marijuana for medical or even recreational use. However, Texas law classifies marijuana differently from THC wax, also known as butane hash oil, hash, or dabs. As far as Texas law is concerned, THC wax is a controlled substance whose possession carries the potential for far more severe penalties than those for possession of marijuana.

Under current Texas law, possession of two ounces or less of marijuana is a misdemeanor offense that can result in up to 180 days in jail and a maximum $2,000 fine. Possession of one to four grams of THC, hash oil, or a concentrate, however, is a felony offense that can result in a two to ten-year prison sentence and a maximum $10,000 fine. Despite the fact that marijuana and hash oil contain the same active ingredient, or THC, Texas legislators do not consider it to be the same substance. An experienced Texas criminal defense attorney can help you build a strong defense against any criminal charges. We are here to evaluate the facts surrounding your case, present your options, and help you make the decisions that will be most beneficial to you, based on your circumstances. Contact Peek & Toland at (512) 474-4445 today and see how we can help.

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Some Lawmakers Seek to Decriminalize Marijuana

By Peek & Toland on April 10, 2019

A recent article in the Texas Tribune discussed the moves by some lawmakers during the current legislative session to decriminalize the possession of small amounts of marijuana. There is growing support for various bills that would reduce or even eliminate criminal penalties for those found with small amounts of marijuana. Some hardliners, however, continue to push back against these bills, fearing that decriminalization of marijuana will lead to the legalization of other drugs and an increase in crime rates.

According to the Texas Department of Public Safety, about 379,000 Texans have been arrested for possessing less than two ounces of marijuana during the past five years. This is because the possession of any amount of marijuana in the state of Texas remains a criminal offense. Meanwhile, ten other states and the District of Columbia have legalized the possession of small amounts of marijuana for purely personal usage. In 13 other states, possession of small amounts of marijuana now is a civil rather than a criminal infraction.

Some Lawmakers Seek to Decriminalize Marijuana

In some urban areas, such as Dallas County, Texas district attorneys have enacted policies under which they will not prosecute first-time, low-level marijuana offenses. Harris County prosecutors have established a diversion program for first-time offenders caught in possession of less than four ounces of marijuana; if individuals take a four-hour class that costs $130 within 90 days, then they will not face criminal charges at all. To date, officials report that more than 7,000 people have taken advantage of the diversion program.

If you are facing marijuana-related or other drug charges, you should consult with an experienced criminal defense attorney who can ensure that your rights a protected at all stages of your criminal proceedings. At Peek & Toland, we are dedicated to protecting your rights and defending you any accusations of wrongdoing that you may be facing. We are here to investigate the facts surrounding your case, consider your options, and help you develop the strategy that is best designed to achieve a successful outcome in your case. Do not waste time attempting to handle legal matters on your own; contact our office as soon as you are charged with a criminal offense so that we can provide you with the help that we need.

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Can a Passenger Be Charged if Police Find Drugs in the Vehicle?

By Peek & Toland on April 8, 2019

You can face drug charges under Texas law if you are a passenger in a vehicle in which the police find drugs. The test for a criminal charge depends upon whether you had care, custody, and control of the drugs as a passenger in the vehicle. In other words, there must be a direct link between the drugs found in the vehicle and the persons occupying the vehicle.

For instance, if drugs are located in the glove compartment, and both the driver and a passenger admit that they knew the drugs were there, they both could face drug charges. If, however, both driver and passenger deny knowing about the drugs in the glove compartment, then the passenger may be in a better position with respect to criminal charges; since the vehicle belonged to the driver, then he presumably would have a stronger link to the drugs than the passenger, who might never have ridden in the car before.

Can a Passenger Be Charged if Police Find Drugs in the Vehicle?

Whether you will face drug charges as a passenger in a vehicle also may depend on the location of the drugs in the vehicle. For example, if you were seated in the front passenger seat and the police located drugs under your seat, then you likely would face charges. If, however, you were seated in the back seat of someone else’s car, and the police located drugs in the trunk of the car, it would be far more difficult to charge you with a drug offense.

If you find yourself charged with any type of criminal offense, you need legal advice that only experienced Texas criminal defense attorneys can offer you. As the consequences of any criminal conviction may be severe, you should immediately contact a skilled defense lawyer for help if you have been accused of a criminal offense. Peek & Toland provides strong legal representation on a regular basis for individuals who are charged with various crimes. It is our priority is to represent your interests and protect your rights.  Call us at (512) 474-4445 and schedule an appointment to speak with us today.

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What is the Legal Status of CBD Oil in Texas?

By Peek & Toland on March 25, 2019

States throughout the country have seen a huge increase the sales of CBD oil, a non-psychoactive substance containing marijuana and hemp, including the state of Texas. Nonetheless, given the vagueness of Texas marijuana laws and continually changing marijuana policies at the federal level, many persons disagree about the legality of CBD oil in the state. Some law enforcement officials believe that so long as the product contains no detectable amounts of THC, or a very low amount of THC, CBD oil is illegal. Others, however, believe that all CBD oil is illegal, regardless of its composition.

Currently, the only Texas law in place that legalizes any form of hemp or marijuana is the Compassionate Use Act, which legalizes medical marijuana usage for patients with a rare form of epilepsy. Neither hemp nor marijuana, or derivatives thereof, are legal in any other form. Although the Texas District and County Attorneys Association consider CBD oil to be illegal under their interpretation of current state law, however, the fact that is a non-intoxicating substance renders it an extremely low priority, even it is illegal. There has been almost no prosecution of individuals for possessing, buying, or selling CBD oil and there have been no court cases interpreting Texas marijuana laws with respect to CBD oil.

 

What is the Legal Status of CBD Oil in Texas?

This position is consistent with recent moves in larger counties to essentially eliminate prosecution of persons caught with small amount of marijuana. In Travis County, for example, persons facing first-time charges for possessing small amount of marijuana can simply take a class in order to avoid prosecution. This tactic allows an already-overburdened court system to better prioritize cases for prosecution.

Our goal is to minimize the penalties that you can potentially face for the criminal offenses with which you are charged. We are here to investigate the facts and circumstances surrounding your case, evaluate your situation, and devise the best strategy for fighting your criminal charges. No matter what type of criminal charges you are facing, the attorneys of Peek & Toland have the experience, knowledge and reputation that you want and need for your criminal defense. When results matter most, contact us at (512) 474-4445.

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Marijuana DWI in Texas

By Peek & Toland on March 20, 2019

Although many states in recent years have legalized medical marijuana and even recreational marijuana in some cases, Texas has not followed this trend. With the narrow exception of low-THC cannabidiol oil prescribed for intractable epilepsy, marijuana remains illegal under Texas law in any amount and any circumstances. As a result, driving while under the influence of marijuana, or marijuana DWI, is illegal in the state of Texas.

Marijuana can affect judgment, motor coordination, and reaction time. All these characteristics arguably are necessary for safe driving. However, studies have produced mixed results as to whether marijuana truly impairs persons to the extent that they cannot safely drive.

Marijuana DWI in Texas

Under Tex. Pen. Code § 49.04, it is illegal to drive while intoxicated. Texas law defines individuals as intoxicated when they do not have the normal use of mental or physical faculties, due to alcohol, controlled substances, dangerous drugs, or a combination of these substances. Therefore, to the extent that marijuana has caused impairment to your mental or physical faculties and you choose to drive, you could be charged with marijuana DWI. 

The potential penalties for marijuana DWI are the same as those for DWI due to alcohol. For a first offense, the charge is a Class B misdemeanor, which can carry a potential term of incarceration of up to 180 days, a fine of up to $2,000, or both. Drivers convicted of DWI also will face a mandatory driver’s license, increased motor vehicle insurance rates, and annual surcharges assessed by the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) of $1,000 per year for three years. A DWI sentence also may include mandatory community service, drug rehabilitation or counseling, and vehicle impoundment.

Furthermore, if you possess marijuana at the time of your arrest, you may also be charged with possession of marijuana. While this does not occur in all jurisdictions in Texas, as some no longer prosecute possession of small amounts of marijuana, it is a possibility in other jurisdictions. Otherwise, the prosecutor can use the presence of marijuana as evidence in support of the marijuana DWI charge.

If you or a family member is facing any type of criminal charges, we may be able to help. As experienced Texas criminal defense attorneys, we have the knowledge needed to help you navigate through often-complex criminal proceedings. Call us today at (512) 474-4445 and schedule an appointment with one of our criminal defense lawyers and learn how we can assist you.

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