On Feb. 2, a 68-year-old man whose sentence was commuted by Barack Obama in 2015 was detained by police in San Antonio on a number of new drug-related charges. Obama in that year had commuted the sentences of many federal inmates who were serving sentences in connection with nonviolent drug crimes.
Texas residents may have heard that Barack Obama commuted the sentences of 330 people convicted of drug crimes on his last day as president. The federal sentences were cut short as part of his final act before leaving office on Jan. 20. In total, Obama commuted the sentences of 1,715 people, which was the most by any president. While in office, he commuted the sentences of 568 inmates who had been sentenced to life in prison.
Drug possession charges against a 24-year-old Texas man were dismissed by a Harris County judge on Jan. 4 after forensic tests revealed that he had been arrested for possessing about a pound of what turned out to be quite legal cat litter. The Harris County Sheriff's Office did not immediately respond to the news or offer an apology to the man for releasing his mugshot and name in a press release following his arrest on Dec. 5.
On Jan. 1, Texas police officers arrested a man from out of state for possessing medical marijuana. The 67-year-old grandfather, who lives in California, was initially pulled over for speeding. During a search of his vehicle, police found 4 ounces of marijuana and edible cookies in his trunk. The man has been charged with two felonies. He was released from jail after posting bond.
Texas residents may have read media reports about synthetic drugs with street names including bath salts and spice. A list of banned substances is maintained by federal authorities, but narcotics makers often alter the formulas of their products in order to skirt the rules and offer intoxicating compounds legally. Federal lawmakers generally act quickly to reclassify these dangerous drugs, and state legislators have also passed laws banning substances like cannabinoids and cathinones.
Drug-related charges remain a leading cause for fines and jail time in Texas and across the United States. An Arkansas case sheds some unsettling light on how these charges are sometimes erroneous, and it serves as a warning to motorists about taking steps to avoid them.
Texas may follow the route of the several states that legalized marijuana in the 2016 elections. In addition, the newly-elected Harris County district attorney announced plans to decriminalize marijuana after taking office. She explained that she did not want to incarcerate non-violent offenders, especially those who committed marijuana-related offenses. Texas state lawmakers have announced six bills related to regulating marijuana. Most of the bills focus on reducing punishments for individuals found with small quantities of marijuana in their possession.
On November 8, 2016, California, Nevada, Maine and Massachusetts voters approved recreational marijuana initiatives. This move added them to the expanding list of states, including Washington and Colorado, that have already authorized marijuana for recreational purposes.
Former Dallas Cowboy Greg Hardy was pulled over for a traffic stop in Richardson, Texas, on Sept. 26 and accused of carrying cocaine. A felony drug charge for cocaine possession was filed against Hardy six weeks after the incident. Court records indicate that the 28-year-old NFL free agent is accused of possessing a baggie containing .7 grams of cocaine.
Two men in Texas were charged with felonies on Oct. 25 after a traffic stop led to a search and seizure. The incident began just before 3 p.m. when police officers in Nash pulled a man over for a traffic stop. Police say that the driver was in possession of codeine and less than one pound of marijuana.