Tetrahydrocannabinol — also known as THC — is the active ingredient in marijuana.
Johnson County Stop the Offender Special Crimes Unit Commander Larry Sparks said the oil derived from THC has become the fastest rising charge law enforcement officers are seeing an abundance of.
“The oil is extracted from the plant itself,” Sparks said. “It’s in a pure form so it is a lot stronger than smoking it through a marijuana plant.”
The problem, Sparks said, is that it’s harder for officers to detect, which makes it easier for children to hide.
“Instead of sitting around smoking a smelly joint, they can just take one or two hits, or, they are just eating it,” he said. “That’s one of the biggest new things. It’s coming in gummies, it’s coming in Rice Krispies treats and Fruity Pebbles treats. It’s coming in all these different forms of candy bars, anything they want. They are making brownies and cookies from it.”
Earlier this year, the STOP task force arrested a Cleburne man who was in possession of 962 grams of THC oil. In January, STOP reported seizing 24,251.9 grams of THC wax/oil valued at $4,171,326.80 over the past 18 months.
Sparks said any amount of usable THC that the naked eye can see is a state jail felony.
• 400 or more grams: This is a first-degree felony carrying a punishment of between five and 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 20 years in prison, a maximum fine of $10,000, or a combination of the two.
• 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 the two.
• Under 1 gram: Less than one gram will qualify as a state jail felony carrying a punishment of up to $10,000 in fines, a maximum sentence of two years in jail, or a combination of the two.
“There’s no misdemeanors for it,” he said. “I make sure when I tell kids when we catch them with marijuana that it is a misdemeanor, but if they ever mess with THC it’s a felony and it doesn’t matter how much they have. If you have a dirty pipe it’s a felony. The reason is because it is so much more dangerous than regular marijuana.”
Sparks said smoking THC through a vape or e-cigarette is dangerous because of the concentration level.
“Each one is going to be different based on which marijuana plant it’s extracted from, but it’s extremely more concentrated,” he said. “It causes more health issues because it’s so strong. It causes kids to pass out. It causes them to hallucinate sometimes. We’ve had kids at the high schools who have had to go to the hospital because they’ve smoked too much of it, or for eating candies.”
The Times-Review requested a copy of all reports filed by school resource officers involving students possessing THC or THC paraphernalia on all campuses in all school districts in Johnson County during the 2018-19 school year.
There were 25 reports in Cleburne and nine in Alvarado. All other districts said they received no reports.
During one incident at Alvarado High School, a student who was found to be in possession of two e-cigs admitted to taking two hits off of one of them at school “because it has THC in it and it helps her calm down,” according to reports.
Like any other drug, Sparks said THC oil is coming into Johnson County through multiple places.
“Some of them are going to Colorado or California or one of the many states where it’s legal now and bringing it back here,” he said. “Or, they are extracting it themselves. There are simple home-remedy methods of how to extract the oils of the marijuana plant themselves.”
Sparks urged parents to look for signs that their children might be using THC oil.
“Everyone acts different when they are high, so if you know your kid well enough and they are acting strange or different, or noticing changes like that,” he said. “It’s no different from marijuana; it’s just at a stronger concentration and it’s easier to hide. You can take something the size of a dime and get high off of it multiple times. You can hide it in your wallet or you can hide it in the form of a Rice Krispies treat. That’s what they are doing at schools and other places.”