For many young people, college is a time to explore the world, get to know themselves and learn by making mistakes and experimenting. Most of the time, mistakes and experimentation result in a hangover or a failed test the next day. These consequences allow students to learn without altering the path of their lives. Sadly, sometimes the consequences for a minor mistake, like experimenting with marijuana, could prove to completely dismantle a student's life plan.
There's a popular saying that the worst thing you can do with marijuana is get caught with it. In many ways, that aphorism is accurate. Unlike alcohol, students don't risk a fatal overdose when experimenting with marijuana. However, if caught in possession of marijuana, students could find that their academic career is over.
Despite changing attitudes, marijuana is still illegal
Although the culture in the United States has changed rapidly in recent years regarding marijuana, the law is much slower to change. While multiple states and the District of Columbia have legalized marijuana for adult recreational use, Texas is not one of them. Texas still penalizes marijuana possession as either a misdemeanor or a felony, depending on the amount of marijuana and whether it was natural state marijuana or an extract or concentrate.
Young adults and college students might imagine that law enforcement will look the other way at a youthful offense involving marijuana, but that is rarely what happens. In reality, they could end up facing serious criminal charges, losing federal student aid and getting saddled with a criminal record that will impact their future for many years to come.
Drug charges can mean the end of financial aid for many students
The federal government is very clear in its approach to drug offenses. Students convicted of a drug offense will lose eligibility for all federal student aid, including Pell grants, federal student loans and other forms of student aid, like work-study programs. For many college students, those forms of financial aid are the only way to afford college. Without them, finishing a degree could prove impossible.
It's important to note that many students who get convicted of crimes also lose their private scholarships. Most colleges and universities have codes of conduct attached both to admission to the school and the receipt of any financial aid. Criminal convictions typically lead to a violation of these codes, which can result in losing scholarships and other financial aid or even being expelled from the school.
Pushing back against minor drug charges is often in the best interest of young people, especially those in college or hoping to attend college. In some cases, a plea to a lower offense not categorized as a drug offense could be an option. In others, it may be possible to suppress certain evidence, making it easier to defend against the charges. You should explore all of your options before pleading guilty to a crime that could change your life.