According to Ballinger Police Chief Stan Maresch, there were 142 arrests in Ballinger in 2018 and a significant number of those were drug-related, “About ½ of our drug arrests were made by our highway interdiction and included THC, marijuana and meth. Other local arrests included drug-related arrests for LSD, acid and mollies (ecstasy).” The department’s 7 officers have put in some solid work in taking down everyone from local dealers to interstate traffickers, “I have 5 warrants on my desk to file. I haven’t filed them yet because we want to also take down other people along with those that we’re getting the warrants for.”
It isn’t hard to see the impact that drug-related crimes have on the system. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, about 20% of crimes are committed by people to obtain money for drugs, including theft, burglary, robbery and murder. About 10% of all murders are drug-related.
In 2007, the cost of illegal drug crime in the United States was $193 billion dollars, with $11 billion in healthcare costs alone. Local communities primarily feel the impact in theft, burglary and robbery cases. No single illicit drug is relegated to any particular socioeconomic area of society. Illicit drugs cross the boundaries from the richest to the poorest, from the most successful to the homeless and everyone in between.
Taking drug dealers and users off the street directly undeniably reduces criminal activity. The use of cocaine, heroin, LSD, crack, meth, ecstasy, PCP to lesser known drugs such as “Lean” aka “Purple Drank” (promethazine (Codeine) cough syrup) and prescription medications such as Hydrocodone and Valium all have an impact.
When the dealers and addicts are removed, the community benefits. Maresch says one particular reason for the surge in drug arrests is the movement of THC between Colorado and Mexico, “If you pull up Google maps, the quickest routes from the southwestern border to Colorado run through Ballinger and Winters.
When it comes to the local users, we know who they are, where they live or hang out and it’s just a matter of time until we catch them again.”
What is Cannabis Oil? Cannabis oil (also known as: marijuana oil, dabs, hash oil or wax) is a thick, sticky, resinous substance made up of cannabinoids, such as THC and CBD. Cannabis oil is a cannabis-based product that is obtained by separating the resins from cannabis flowers using a solvent extraction process. Hash, oils and concentrates have a higher concentration of THC than actual marijuana and are more potent.
It’s not uncommon for individuals to mistakenly assume they can bring the substances back to Texas without legally penalty because concentrates such as thc oil and wax were legally purchased in another state. In fact, many people who have been charged for possession, manufacture, or delivery of THC oil or marijuana concentrates face felony charges after obtaining the substances from other states where concentrates are legally sold.
Differences Between THC Oil and Marijuana under Texas Statute §481.002(26)
Texas Statute §401.002(26) lays out the differences between marijuana and THC Oil. Texas law defines marijuana, “marihuana” as both growing and non-growing Cannabis sativa L. plants, every compound, manufacture, derivative, mixture, or preparation of the seeds or plants.
§401.002(26) carves out substances which do not qualify as marijuana under the state. These substances include oil or cakes made from marijuana seeds or plants, resin extracted from the plant of the compound, fibers or mature stalks of the plant, sterilized seeds incapable of germination, or any compound manufacture, derivative, mixture, oil, or cake.
Unlike marijuana, which is not included under Texas’ Penalty Group of controlled substances, THC Oil is listed in Penalty Group 2 of §481.103. This group includes salts, isomers, salts of isomers, and other synthetic equivalent substances made from the marijuana plant.
This means that marijuana-related substances such as tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) wax, concentrates and hash are considered Penalty Group 2 controlled substances and possession of even the smallest amount of the substances is considered a felony in Texas.
Penalties for Possession of THC Oil under Texas Law §481.116 of the Texas Controlled Substance Act sets penalties for possession of THC Oil depending on the amount in question. The following penalties are enforced for various quantities of THC oil:
400 or more grams: This is a First-degree felony carrying a punishment of between five (5) and ninety-nine (99) years in prison, a maximum fine of $10,000, or a combination of the two.
4 grams or more, but under 400 grams: This quantity will result in a second-degree felony carrying a maximum of twenty (20) years in prison, a maximum fine of $10,000, or a combination of these punishments.
1 gram or more, but under 4 grams: A conviction for possession of this quantity of THC oil will result in a third-degree felony carrying penalties of a maximum fine of $10,000, a maximum prison sentence of ten (10) years, or a combination of these penalties.
Under 1 gram: Less than one gram of a Penalty Group substance will qualify as a state jail felony carrying a punishment of up to $10,000 in fines, a maximum sentence of two (2) years in jail, or a combination of these penalties.
As you can see, the laws for possession of marijuana are not as severe:
Possession of Marijuana:
Under 2 oz.: Class B misdemeanor; 2-4 oz.: Class A misdemeanor; 4 oz. to 5 lbs.: State jail felony; 5-50 lbs.: 3rd degree felony; 50-2000 lbs.: 2nd degree felony; Over 2000 lbs.: Texas Dept. of Criminal Justice institution for life or 5-99 yrs. and $50,000
In 2018 the Ballinger Police Department seized almost $500,000 in THC oil, meth and other drugs. They did this is cooperation with the Runnels County Sheriff’s Office and the Winters Police Department. The weight of the THC oil seized during the highway interdiction arrests resulted in first and second-degree felony charges being filed against the suspects. A first-degree felony is punishable by 5-99 years in prison and a $10,000 fine. A second-degree felony is punishable by 2-20 years in prison and a $10,000 fine. A third-degree felony is punishable by 2-10 years and a $10,000 fine. The lowest felony, which is a state-jail felony, is punishable by 180 days to 2 years in jail and a $10,000 fine.
Recently a suspect arrested for possession of ½ pound of meth by Ballinger PD was sentenced to 25 years in prison. Maresch said that they’re always working to get higher-level dealers, “We always working different angles to get the bigger fish. As for the locals, we arrest them over and over and they always get out on probation.” Many of the thefts in the area are due to the dope fiends stealing to get drug money, “They see a Stihl weedeater sitting out and snatch it. They take it and trade it for $100 in meth or crack. We work to link the dope users to thefts when we find stolen property. They’ll keep changing their locations but we keep tracking them down and making the same arrests again.”
Maresh said that one action people can take is to record the make, model and serial numbers of their property. Guns are especially important but also record the information from your chainsaws, lawn mowers, weedeaters, trailers, boats, jet skis, tractors, etc. Anything that is valuable and could be stolen should have its information recorded so that if it is stolen it will be easier to track down and return. In Austin the pawn shops are linked to the police department computers. If a person steals a lawn mower and goes to pawn it, the pawn shop immediately enters the information into the system. If a detective had been assigned a burglary case where that mower was stolen, he would get an automatic pop-up notification on his computer that the mower was being pawned. Obviously Ballinger doesn’t have that capability but having the make/model and serial numbers makes it much easier to locate the owners of stolen property.
Their police department’s efforts at addressing the narcotics trafficking activity coming through the city have paid off and will continue to pay off. In May the police department will get a new officer and that will give Maresch one more person on the streets to help stem the tide of drugs being brought through the area. Their approach has been successful and their hard work has paid off for the people of Ballinger. No city goes completely without crime but Ballinger’s crime rate is kept low through the work of the police department and vigilance of the citizens.
With the increase in THC trafficking the Runnels County law enforcement entities are almost guaranteed to approach the $500,000 benchmark again in 2019. Ballinger’s police department has done a commendable job in looking out for the safety and security of the citizens in the town and every arrest is one more criminal off the streets and makes everyone a little safer.