Heroin and Marijuana in Texas: What’s the Federal Government Doing?
First, let’s talk about pot. There’s the real stuff, called “marihuana” in the Texas Controlled Substances Act (CSA), and the fake alternative, a.k.a. “synthetic marijuana.” Under Texas CSA Section 481.002(26), marijuana is defined as follows:
“Marihuana” means the plant Cannabis sativa L., whether growing or not, the seeds of that plant, and every compound, manufacture, salt, derivative, mixture, or preparation of that plant or its seeds. The term does not include:
(A) the resin extracted from a part of the plant or a compound, manufacture, salt, derivative, mixture, or preparation of the resin;
(B) the mature stalks of the plant or fiber produced from the stalks;
(C) oil or cake made from the seeds of the plant;
(D) a compound, manufacture, salt, derivative, mixture, or preparation of the mature stalks, fiber, oil, or cake; or
(E) the sterilized seeds of the plant that are incapable of beginning germination.
It’s a weed that will get someone high who injects or inhales it, primarily due to its THC content. You know this.
Real and Fake Marijuana
And it will get you arrested if you are caught with it in your possession, so enterprising drug entrepreneurs have created an alternative product, synthetic marijuana, designed to provide the high that grass provides without the criminal arrest risk.
That may or may not work; for more on synthetic marijuana and how it can get you arrested, read our earlier post, “Synthetic Drugs Law: Will New Texas Law Succeed in Outlawing Spice, K2, and Other Synthetic Highs?”
Synthetic marijuana is really, really popular not just here in Dallas and North Texas, but everywhere in this country. Not that it’s FDA Approved, of course, or that buyers really know what they’re getting when they purchase the product under any number of product names — like K2, Spice, White Tiger, Dank, etc.
Maybe you read about all the people (it’s reported to be over a dozen) that were found having seizures or unconscious on a New York City street yesterday, near to a K2 shop where a bad batch of synthetic marijuana was being sold. At last count, over 33 people had reported to local emergency rooms for treatment after taking this particular K2 blend. For details, read “33 People Hospitalized After K2 Overdoses,” in the New York Post.
Right now in Dallas, Fort Worth, and all the surrounding counties here in North Texas, smoking pot — real or fake — puts you at risk for being arrested under either Texas state law or federal criminal law. It’s a crime under both the state statutes and the federal statutes for someone to have or to use this stuff.
However, things are changing. The news right now for marijuana appears to be the federal government taking steps not only to stop prosecuting marijuana cases as fiercely as they have done in years past, but to take steps to make the drug acceptable — even legal — in this country, at least in certain situations.
It’s a big deal. Huffington Post is reporting that the federal government’s “War On Weed’s End In Sight,” this week. Two things are on the horizon.
1. DEA Reclassifying Marijuana? Maybe….
First, lots of folk are expecting the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) to change how marijuana is classified under federal law. The Food and Drug Administration has informed the DEA that this is fine with them.
Right now, marijuana is a “Schedule I” drug and that’s a serious classification. It puts marijuana right up there with heroin and crack cocaine.
If the DEA does as some hope will happen, the federal classification will change to either Schedule II, or maybe even lower down the scheduling list, to a Schedule III, IV, or V. (If it’s changed, a downgrade to Schedule II is most likely.)
According to the Santa Monica Observer, one DEA Lawyer has revealed to sources that the DEA will announced that marijuana will be re-classified as a Schedule II drug on August 1, 2016. Maybe that’s true, maybe that’s not. There’s no official news release from the DEA on this (yet).
If marijuana is made a federal classified Schedule II drug, then it will be available as a legal drug if it is obtained by a prescription. And since federal law here will override state statutes on the matter, it will make medical marijuana legal in Texas and everywhere else in this country.
That’s the real stuff. The synthetic marijuana will still be as illegal as it ever was.
Note: even if the DEA doesn’t act, states are busy passing laws that allow medical marijuana within their boundaries. You know about Colorado as an example. Right now, state legislatures are considering medical marijuana bills in Arkansas, Arizona, California, Florida, Massachusetts, Missouri, and Nevada.
2. President Obama and an Executive Action
There’s also talk that President Obama can and just might act to decriminalize marijuana as one of his last acts as head of the executive branch before he leaves office. This argument points out that the DEA is an agency within the Justice Department and may not have the authority in and of itself to declassify a Scheduled Drug.
This argument has the outgoing (lame duck) president signing an executive order allowing medical marijuana in all 50 states while he still has the presidential pen. We’ll see.
The Federal Government’s Heroin Fight
Meanwhile, the White House is definitely acting on heroin use in this country. Last month, a news release was issued by President Obama that detailed how much money each state would receive from the proposed $1.1 Billion fund to provide opioid treatment to heroin users. It’s noted in the release that “[t]he President has made clear that addressing this epidemic is a priority for his Administration.”
According to the federal studies, Dallas County along with nearby Hunt County and Kaufman County are among the highest in drug poisoning death rates due to opioid overdoses in the state. Texas would get over $48 Million in a two year period to help people who have become addicted to heroin or prescription opiates like Oxycodone.
It’s reported that Congress will be sending over the final bill for President Obama to sign into law as soon as today (July 13, 2016). So, expect to be hearing lots more about federal funding to help people hooked on heroin here in North Texas.
Additionally, the Department of Health and Human Services has just okayed the use of a new drug called Saboxone in treating heroin addition. It’s considered vastly superior to methadone in helping heroin users overcome the need for the opioid. Now, there’s just the problem of making it available to those who need it.
Federal Arrest or State Arrest — Two Separate Drug Crimes
No one is arguing that heroin and other opioids can destroy lives. They can; they do. However, the federal funding to help people deal with their addictions IS NOT changing the criminality of having heroin in your possession (much less selling or distributing it).
Heroin and other opioids can get you arrested under either federal or state drug laws and having you facing some very serious jail time.
However, marijuana is being moved away from these other drugs in the minds of many. Arguments are made that marijuana isn’t as dangerous as heroin, among other serious felony drugs, and shouldn’t be criminalized in the same way. And then there’s the other argument: that marijuana has medicinal benefits for many.
It is possible for the federal government to issue laws that override state and local laws. That’s called “preemption.” There is lots of talk that the current administration is working to decriminalize marijuana and that this drug will be treated much differently insofar as being arrested and charged, much less sentenced after a conviction for marijuana possession, in the future.
However, today? Today in North Texas things are the same. Status quo. Marijuana and Heroin both remain illegal, Schedule I drugs under the Texas Controlled Substances Act as well as under federal drug laws.
And a Schedule I Drug Arrest is a very serious charge to face here in Dallas.
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