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What Are the Legal Consequences of Using Synthetic Marijuana?

Synthetic marijuana–also known as synthetic cannabinoids or “fake weed”–refers to a wide range of human-produced, psychoactive chemicals that are typically sprayed on dried plant material and either smoked or sold in liquid form for use in vaporizers. Although the chemicals used in these drugs are similar to those found naturally in marijuana, “synthetic marijuana” is itself a misleading term. It is not safer than marijuana, and in many cases the effects of the chemicals used in synthetic cannabinoids are more dangerous and unpredictable. For this reason, it is illegal to sell, possess, or distribute synthetic marijuana in Texas.

“Fake Weed” Dealer Gets 15 Years Following Police Bust

And the penalties from distributing synthetic marijuana can be quite harsh. In a recent decision, Bridges v. State, a Texas appeals court upheld the criminal conviction and 15-year prison sentence of a defendant charged with “possession with intent to deliver” of synthetic marijuana. On appeal, the defendant unsuccessfully argued that the trial judge should have entered a directed verdict in his favor.

At trial, the arresting officer testified that he observed the defendant and three other individuals at a bus stop in downtown San Antonio. The officer said he recognized two of these individuals from prior incidents and knew them to be synthetic marijuana users. The officer also said he had “received specialized training in identifying synthetic marijuana” and knew had the drug was commonly packaged.

During his surveillance, the officer noted that two of the individuals were keeping “lookout” for the police, while the defendant took out a cigarillo, removed its tobacco, and replaced it with something he had taken “from his left front pocket.” Upon closer observation, the officer identified the item in the defendant’s left pocket as having “colorful packaging,” which is commonly associated with synthetic marijuana. The officer approached the defendant and asked to see the package. The officer identified the package as a form of synthetic marijuana and placed the defendant under arrest. A police body camera recorded the arrest and was later played back for the jury.

Although the initial arrest only charged the defendant with simple possession, a further review of the evidence elevated the charge with possession with intent to deliver. The arresting officer testified that the defendant “had over 150 times the amount of synthetic marijuana on him as an individual would need for single use.” The defendant also had a “large amount of $1 bills on him,” which the officer said indicated the defendant was “distributing narcotics on the street, especially to homeless people.”

The appeals court concluded there was more than enough “circumstantial evidence” to prove the defendant was on the streets that night intending to distribute synthetic marijuana.

Speak with a Houston Drug Crimes Defense Lawyer Today

Aside from the legal consequences, synthetic marijuana is dangerous and should not be used, period. But if you are caught in possession of a synthetic cannabinoid–or facing a more serious distribution charge–you need to speak with a qualified Houston drug crimes defense attorney right away. Contact the Law Offices of Tad Nelson & Associates in Galveston or League City if you need to speak with a lawyer today. Call (281) 280-0100 .