Texas law enforcement raided a smoke shop in a coastal town southwest of Houston and arrested an employee on drug charges.
Port Lavaca Police Department (PLPD) reported its officers seized more than 1,000 grams of products suspected to contain elevated levels of THC, another 14 ounces of cannabis flower and around $4,000 in suspected illicit drug money. PLPD Chief Colin Rangnow said the raid and arrest were the result of a months-long investigation into Faded Smoke Shop’s activities following several tip-offs from people claiming the shop sold THC-containing cannabis.
Undercover police officers bought several products from the store then had them analyzed at a lab. The results confirmed they contained significant amounts of THC. The seized products will now be tested at the same lab to determine whether they contain more than 0.3 percent THC, with results expected within a month.
The owner of Faded Smoke Shop, Alexandra Degollado, turned herself in shortly after the raid claiming the cannabis products seized by the police are actually legal hemp. Degollado’s store is licensed to sell CBD edibles and hemp products under Texas law. She was later released on a $30,000 bond. As of last week, an employee, Daniel Herrera, remained in custody at Calhoun County Jail with bond set at $40,000. Both Degollado and her employee face charges of manufacturing and distributing between 4 and 400 grams of a controlled substance.
Degollado will be represented by two lawyers, one of whom specializes in cannabis law and serves on the Texas Department of Agriculture Industrial Hemp Advisory Council.
“We are going to be defending her by educating the prosecutor that she sourced her products from legal distributors and she relied on legal certificate of analysis demonstrating that the products she was selling were legal under the law,” Degollado’s attorney, Lisa Pittman said.
Whether that is the case hinges on the test results of the seized products. If found to contain elevated THC levels, charges will likely follow even though Texas is taking tentative steps toward marijuana legalization, with multiple cannabis reform bills filed this session.
“I know people have many opinions about this from social media,” said PLPD Chief Colin Ragnow. “But people have to understand that, right now, it is still illegal. I realize it might be legalized in a few years, but it is still illegal here.”
Under federal marijuana law, hemp containing less than 0.3 percent THC is legal but while 15 states have legalized marijuana containing more THC than this, it remains illegal under state law in Texas. In recent times, however, Texas Department of Public Safety has instructed its law enforcement officers to desist from low-level cannabis possession arrests, while state prosecutors have indicated they will no longer pursue marijuana possession charges from small offenses. Part of the reason why they’ve decided to drop these cases is the difficulty in distinguishing legal hemp from illegal cannabis as it requires expensive and laborious tests at backlogged facilities.