New Hemp Legislation in Texas Frees A whole bunch of Pot Offenders From Prosecution

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Cops should now show that minor pot offenders are literally in possession of weed (not hemp) previous to arrest. Most police departments, nevertheless, lack the gear to show this.

When Texas Governor Greg Abbott signed a brand new legislation legalizing the cultivation and use of hemp and CBD, he did not count on that he’d even be decriminalizing minor cannabis possession within the Lone Star State.

Final month, Texas turned state quantity 43 to legalize hemp and all of its byproducts, together with hemp-derived CBD. In accordance with the 2018 Farm Invoice, which ended the federal prohibition of hemp, Texas’ new legislation legalizes all cannabis crops and byproducts that comprise lower than 0.Three p.c THC content material. Hashish crops with greater THC ranges are nonetheless thought of to be marijuana, and stay prohibited.

This new legislation is nice information for the state’s burgeoning CBD business. Nevertheless it’s had the unintended consequence of constructing it tougher for cops to bust minor pot offenders. With a purpose to arrest somebody for cannabis possession, cops should now show that the substance they confiscated is definitely marijuana — not hemp. To do that, police should be capable to take a look at the THC degree in pot they’ve seized. However most native police departments wouldn’t have this know-how.

“The excellence between marijuana and hemp requires proof of the THC focus of a particular product or contraband, and for now, that proof can come solely from a laboratory able to figuring out that sort of efficiency — a class which apparently excludes most, if not all, of the crime labs in Texas proper now,” the state District and County Attorneys Affiliation mentioned in a current advisory.

For many counties, the one rapid answer could be to ship confiscated weed to non-public labs for testing. ABC 13 Investigates discovered that these assessments can vary from $200 to $750 per case. Final yr, Texas district attorneys prosecuted practically 70,000 misdemeanor pot possession circumstances. If prosecutors have been to get try and get personal THC lab testing for the same variety of circumstances this yr, the fee could be over $35 million.

Texas crime labs may additionally immediately buy the gear wanted to make these THC assessments themselves. The associated fee per lab might be as a lot as $500,000, nevertheless, and at the very least 20 such labs could be wanted to cowl the entire state, in accordance with Peter Stout, CEO of the crime lab utilized by the Houston Police Division. 

The brand new legislation took impact instantly on June 10th, the day that Abbott signed it. With out time to draft new insurance policies or resolve on new THC testing practices, many state prosecutors have merely determined to dismiss minor pot convictions within the rapid future. 

“With a purpose to comply with the Legislation as now enacted by the Texas Legislature and the Workplace of the Governor, the jurisdictions … won’t settle for felony costs for Misdemeanor Possession of Marijuana (four oz. and beneath) with out a lab take a look at outcome proving that the proof seized has a THC focus over .3%,” district attorneys from Harris, Fort Bend, Bexar and Nueces counties wrote in a joint coverage assertion, in accordance with the Texas Tribune.

“I will even be informing the legislation enforcement companies by letter to not file marijuana or THC felony circumstances with out consulting with the DA’s Workplace first to find out whether or not the mandatory lab testing could be obtained,” Travis County District Lawyer Margaret Moore mentioned in a press release, the Tribune reviews.

Prosecutors in Fort Price have already dismissed a whole bunch of minor pot possession circumstances. Fort Bend, Montgomery, and Walker counties are reportedly placing circumstances on maintain whereas they develop the mandatory testing protocol. Tarrant County dismissed 234 circumstances, though these could be refiled throughout the subsequent two years if the county finds an reasonably priced approach to take a look at THC ranges. Harris County is permitting minor pot offenders to take a four-hour training class fairly than face felony costs.

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