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Texas Asks Prosecutors To Accept Marijuana Possession Cases But Nueces DA Refuses

Ryan Poppe | Texas Public Radio
Nueces County District Attorney Mark Gonzalez

A group of district attorneys this month announced they would not prosecute possession of marijuana cases until the state produced a test that differentiated between legal hemp and marijuana. But Gov. Greg Abbott and other state officials were not happy about that.

The officials sent a letter to the prosecutors on Thursday asking them to continue the prosecutions.

The letter said that Texas hemp law created a new legal definition for hemp and marijuana but did not decriminalize marijuana.

The 2019 Texas legislature defined hemp as something that contains 0.3% psychoactive THC or less. It defined marijuana as anything above that limit.

Mark Gonzalez, the Nueces County district attorney, said prosecuting these cases would now require laboratory testing to show that a substance is actually marijuana and not hemp.

Abbott's letter explained that lab testing was just one way to prosecute marijuana cases.

It also urged district attorneys to use circumstantial evidence to prosecute their marijuana possession cases until the state approves tests that can differentiate between hemp and marijuana.

Listen to an extended interview with Nueces County District Attorney Mark Gonzalez.

But Gonzalez said that was problematic. “Circumstantial evidence," he said, "would be the lowest grade of evidence."

He also considered the men and women in the jury box. “The juries nowadays, they’re very intellectual," he explained, "[and] they know that science and testing is out there, and if you don’t provide that to them they’re going to hold you accountable."

He said his office would continue to decline prosecution of marijuana arrests.

Letter to DAs by TPR News on Scribd

Ryan Poppe can be reached at RPoppe@TPR.org and on Twitter at @RyanPoppe1.

Ryan started his radio career in 2002 working for Austin’s News Radio KLBJ-AM as a show producer for the station's organic gardening shows. This slowly evolved into a role as the morning show producer and later as the group’s executive producer.