Although it may seem harmless, possession of THC oil on a school campus is a felony.
Last year, Ector County ISD Director of School Attendance Scott Randolph said it was a big issue.
“In the expulsion hearings that I’ve done, which we did a lot last year, it was an epidemic,” Randolph said.
ECISD Police Department Lt. Jeff Daniels said there haven’t been as many cases this year, but there weren’t nearly as many students on campus until recently due to COVID-19.
“We’ve still seen a few cases, but we’re not seeing anything like we saw last year. I do think the word is getting out to these kids that we test their e-cigarettes, which they’re not even allowed to have if they’re under the age of 21 … so if they’re in possession it’s automatically a Class C misdemeanor. … We test what’s in it. We research what’s in the vaping oil that’s in there. If it’s CBD based, we have a testing mechanism that tests for that. If it’s THC, we have a testing mechanism that will test for that. If it’s THC then it’s a felony charge in that liquid form and it’s a controlled substance penalty group 2.”
Daniels said students can get an expulsion hearing over it.
“We charge them with possession of a controlled substance penalty group 2,” Daniels said. “(The penalty) depends on their status as a juvenile — if they’ve ever been an offender before. It’s up to the Youth Center when they set punishment.”
He said it could land the student on probation, but “it won’t follow them as an adult.”
Asked where youngsters are getting the THC oil from, Daniels said it’s the vape shops in town.
“That’s where they’re buying it,” he said. “Some of it you can order online and they’ll ship it to their residence. We’ve got people who deal narcotics in our town and they’re selling these CBD and THC oils, as well, so they’re ordering them in bulk and selling them just like they’d be selling marijuana. That’s a felony 2 is the charge on that.”
Daniels and Randolph said there can be some confusion on the parents’ end. Randolph said that he’s had expulsion hearings where the parents wished they had had more information about THC oil.
“I do believe there can be some confusion on the parents’ end because they’re seeing these e-cigarettes and they’re thinking well it’s just strawberry based because they’re all hiding the THC oil,” Daniels said. “They’re mixing it with different flavors, so it might be pineapple; it could be strawberry, things like that, to hide it from the people around them that may not know. So a parent may see their kid doing it and think they’re doing a nicotine e-cigarette; it’s strawberry flavor; it’s not even doing anything to them. It’s not illegal, when in fact it’s a felony.”
Randolph said a lot of students and families, “have no idea that it’s that severe.”
Next year, Daniels said, police are hoping to see fewer THC oil cases.
“THC vapes are kind of new; they’re a few years old, but typically when they come out and people are caught with them and charged, that kind of educates the people around them, they start avoiding that. So we’re really expecting our numbers to go down rather than up with the oil,” he said.
Canine officers can sniff out THC oil and they are performing searches on campuses daily as a prevention tool.
“We want the kids to know that were looking for it. We hope they never get involved with it and we don’t want it on our campus, so it’s a great prevention tool,” Daniels said.
With the new laws passed by the legislature starting Sept. 1, Daniels said the police department is anticipating what lawmakers are going to do with THC, marijuana and CBD.
“… The edible stuff is starting to show up more — like THC gummies,” Daniels said.
“… The dangerous thing with the edibles is it’s such a high concentration of THC it’s not for an inexperienced person who’s experimenting with marijuana cigarette,” he added.
A gummy, he said is equivalent to about five or six marijuana cigarettes.
“We see it in our community. We see it in these shops. The more of these shops that are popping up, not all of them are doing what they should be doing so it’s always something new hits the market we see it in our community.”
He added that they always see a learning curve when new trends arrive, especially narcotics.
“They come in real popular. No one really knows about them. There haven’t been any bad side effects that are really well known, or anybody charged … But once law enforcement gets involved, they make cases, sometimes medical treatments are involved. They might overdose on something. That always teaches the people around them …,” Daniels said.
With crime on campus in general, Randolph said he thinks the social-emotional learning component ECISD has begun will help with offenses.
“… Just listening at the (expulsion) hearings, the parents get to explain everything and you’re talking domestic violence, you’re talking deaths of parents,” Randolph said.
He thinks about what he would do in that position and how he would be doing in school.
“A lot of times, the campus teacher or principal may not be aware of all the trauma that’s in the kids’ life. So once they get to be aware of it, in my opinion, they’re going to be able to better address the needs of the kids,” Randolph said.