Texas residents who are convicted on first-degree felony charges can be sent to prison for up to 99 years. Such sentences are generally reserved for individuals who commit violent crimes like murder, but they can also be handed down to defendants who committed what many people would consider relatively minor narcotics offenses. Under current Texas law, an individual who bakes a batch of cannabis brownies and then offers them to friends at a party could spend the rest of their life behind bars.
This is because lawmakers in the Lone Star State decided to take a firm stand in 2015 when faced with new drugs made using synthetic marijuana and THC concentrates. Any drugs made with these substances are now classified in the Texas Health and Safety Code alongside PCP and ecstasy in Penalty Group 2. However, the language of the 2015 law is vague, and its penalty classification covers any cannabis THC other than marijuana. This is why baking cannabis cookies in Texas is now such a serious crime.
Matters become far more serious when cannabis brownies are offered to others. This would allow prosecutors to file a drug possession with the intent to distribute charge, which is a first-degree felony in Texas that carries a sentence of between five years and life in prison.
When their clients face extremely harsh sentences on relatively minor drug charges, experienced criminal defense attorneys may recommend that prosecutors to take a more lenient approach. Attorneys might point out during plea negotiations that severe punishments could elicit sympathy from a jury when they seem disproportionate to the crime the defendant is charged with committing. Attorneys may support these arguments by citing mitigating factors such as a previously unblemished criminal record, gainful full-time employment, the support of friends and family members and genuine remorse.