How Does New Hemp Law Affect Marijuana Possession?
Earlier this year, the Texas legislature passed HB 1325, which legalized the sale, possession, and use of hemp products in the state. Hemp is derived from the cannabis plant, but legal hemp products contain less than 0.3 percent of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), which is the psychoactive component of marijuana. Instead, hemp products provide the benefits of cannabidiol (CBD) without a user experiencing a high.
Hemp legalization has caused some policy changes among law enforcement authorities in some parts of Texas. It can be difficult to tell the difference between hemp products and marijuana that contains greater than 0.3 percent THC. For this reason, some prosecutors have stopped pursuing lower-level marijuana possession charges. They claim that since they do not know whether someone possesses legal hemp or illegal marijuana, they cannot prove criminal drug possession.
Government Forensic lab equipment currently do not have the equipment of have it calibrated accurately test whether a substance has more or less than the legal amount of THC. In addition, many hemp products smell and look the same as marijuana, so it can be difficult to use circumstantial evidence to prove the substance is unlawful.
Politicians Instruct Prosecutors to Pursue Marijuana Charges
After several prosecuting offices stopped pursuing misdemeanor marijuana possession charges, Governor Greg Abbott, House Speaker Dennis Bonnen, Attorney General Ken Paxton, and Lt. Governor Dan Patrick issued a letter to all district and county attorneys. The letter reminds prosecutors that HB 1325 did not legalize marijuana, and that possession of marijuana is still a criminal offense in Texas. The letter stated that clear lab results should not be necessary to pursue charges.
In response, the district attorney for Harris County stated she will continue to require a positive lab test for marijuana possession charges. She stated that, “Prosecutors have an ethical duty to be able to prove beyond a reasonable doubt, and laboratory confirmation in drug cases has long been required. When a person’s liberty is at stake, juries demand nothing less.”
The district attorney for Dallas County stated that the decision not to prosecute certain possession charges was not based on confusion, but on the requirement that the state proves the accurate THC content to obtain a conviction. He stated that he will not risk prosecuting people for legal hemp. The Denton County District Attorney indicated that the cost to determine the THC levels was too cumbersome and also would not prosecute low level marijuana cases that occurred on or after June 10, 2019
Marijuana Possession is Still a Criminal Offense
Despite the mixed policies of district attorney offices across Texas, it is important to remember that possession of cannabis products with over 0.3 percent of THC is still a crime in Texas. THC edibles and oils over 0.3 percent THC can be a felony. For possession of less than two ounces of marijuana, you can face the following:
- Class B misdemeanor charges
- Up to 180 days in jail
- Fines up to $2,000
If you are accused of possessing marijuana, you should always seek help from an experienced criminal defense attorney.
Contact a Texas Criminal Defense Lawyer for Help with Your Case
The Law Office of Brent D. Bowen, PLLC handles all types of drug-related cases and can defend against possession charges. After an arrest, do not wait to call 940-222-2488 or contact us online to learn how the firm can help.