Cameron County District Attorney Luis V. Saenz held a press conference Friday where he discussed vape pens and the challenge they bring in the fight against drugs amongst the youth.
He also talked about changes to smoking laws which state adults under the age of 21 will no longer be permitted to purchase or possess tobacco, cigarettes, or e-cigarettes.
The new law will go into effect on Sep. 1 and Saenz said it is important for parents and family members to learn to identify what vape pens look like and how they affect their children’s life. He said vape pens are very popular among young people because they produce little to no smell.
“I want parents to know about this because you may see one of these vape pens on your children’s dresser and not notice it as being something that is dangerous,” he said. “They are being marketed for the young people as being safer and as being healthier than smoking and that is totally false. The market is big for youth, these are very, very dangerous products, they can be used for nicotine products, or for the THC product.”
Earlier this week, the Cameron County District Attorney Special Investigations Unit arrested Roel Martinez and charged him with a first degree felony after he was caught receiving a Federal Express package containing 650 vials of THC, also known as the most abundant psychoactive component in varieties of cannabis (marijuana).
After executing a search warrant at Martinez’s Harlingen home, additional 68 THC vials were retrieved. In total, 718 vials of THC oil weighing approximately 11,000 grams.
“This is something that is out there trending, that it’s being marketed to the young people, they’re taking advantage of the young people, they’re pushing it as being something healthier or not as dangerous and that is totally false; it is just equally dangerous,” he said. “I want the public to know that while you may be caught with the actual marijuana, and that may be a class b misdemeanor, but to be caught with the THC oil is a felony.”
Saenz said that while vape pens are not illegal using them for THC oil is a felony. Vape pens can be used for nicotine products and for THC oil. There are some places where vape pens and CBD oil is sold for medicinal purposes. The CBD oil that is legal has less than 0.3 percent THC.
“For the most part some of these businesses do sell the legal CBD oil which is oil for medicinal purposes with a THC level of 0.3 percent or below but some of these businesses are not legitimate and I am calling them out, these businesses are selling some of these vials to selected personnel,” he said. “We know who they are and we are going to get them.”
In regards to the smoking law changes he said he hopes this will make it easier for school personnel and authorities to identify students who are engaging in illegal activities, such as vaping THC.
“It makes it easier for school personnel to be able to monitor it because 99 percent of the kids in high school are going to be under 21, so, if they see any sort of smoke coming from a student, that student is engaging in something illegal,” Saenz said. “ Number one, if he is under 21 he shouldn’t be smoking and if from afar it looks like smoke and you come up and it’s going to be vapor then what he is doing is vaping.”
Saenz said his office will be working with schools to try and help them control vaping but he also encourages parents to see what their children are smoking or vaping and to remember vaping pens are equally dangerous as cigarettes.
“We will be out there monitoring, working with the schools to try and help them in controlling this crime that is on going,” he said. “The vape pen itself is not illegal, and that is what makes it difficult and that’s what they use for propaganda. If you get caught with up to 4 oz of marihuana, is a misdemeanor, if you get caught with a vial of THC oil that’s a felony.”