Many Texans may have heard that, even in states where it is legal to use recreational, marijuana remains a controlled substance under federal law.

Thus, it is a crime under federal law to possess or distribute this drug, and the Department of Justice or other federal authorities can prosecute accordingly. The penalties can be quite harsh and can include years in federal prison and six-figure fines.

Right now, the focus of federal authorities seems to be on those who are accused of dealing in or transporting the drug across state or national borders. However, this approach can change on relatively short notice.

Even so, people can and often do get prosecuted in federal court for crimes related to marijuana.

In other words, no one should think that federal law enforcement agents and United States Attorneys are willing to ignore or overlook marijuana cases, particularly when the case involves a lot of the drug or involves THC oil, hashish and the like.

What charges the local United States Attorney will be willing to file, and under what circumstances, is a question that is largely left to the local federal prosecutors, who will in turn be guided by the Department of Justice’s rules and directives. Again, these policies can change profoundly even without a lot of notice.

One consideration any federal prosecutor must make is how much evidence she has available to her and how likely she is to get an indictment and, ultimately, a conviction. If she and her team know that the person accused will mount a strong defense to the charges, it may cause her to re-think how aggressively she approaches the case.