When Texas enacted their “Hemp Program” it caused mass confusion for law enforcement officers, attorneys, and judges. People have claimed confusion to the point of identifying if the flower in someone’s possession is legal or illegal and some have even accused officials of decriminalizing marijuana with the enactment of the “Hemp Program.”
First, let us look at the argument regarding to not being able to identify if the product in someone’s possession is legal or not. Marijuana and hemp are the same plant called cannabis and for all intents and purposes, they look and smell the same. The difference is a hemp plant cannot contain more than .3% THC and if it the plant does contain more than .3% THC, it is a marijuana plant. Therefore, in order to determine if the flower in someone’s pocket or glove compartment or rolled up in papers is under the .3% level, it must be tested to determine the level of THC in it.
Unfortunately, this test is expensive and Texas crime labs are unable to perform the test – so it has to be tested by a private lab. This has cause district attorneys to be unable to accept marijuana cases without a test proving that the THC level in the product confiscated was under the .3% limit – resulting in counties and cities having to decide how much they are willing to spend to enforce the state’s marijuana laws. Which takes us to the second issue of decriminalization accusations.
The constant accusation of the hemp laws decriminalizing marijuana has state lawmakers and even Governor Abbott having to reaffirm that marijuana is still illegal in the state of Texas. Counties and cities all over the state are having to adjust, some have noticed over a 50% drop in marijuana cases, some are holding open all cases until a state lab is provided to test and yet others are trying to determine how much money should be budgeted to test cannabis for possible prosecution.
With these issues it is easy to understand why people are claiming the hemp laws in Texas have inadvertently decriminalized marijuana. It is up to the State, now, to help alleviate this confusion.
While law enforcement needs a way to test THC levels in products quicker, easier, and cheaper a possible solution to all this is to first figure out this testing conundrum and then start-up with the prosecutions (instead of putting the horse before the cart).
By: Ashley Ann Sander
December 2020 Graduate