Texas Legalized Hemp And Unintentionally Made Marijuana Cases Harder To Prosecute
The legalization of hemp in Texas had unintended consequences. Determining the difference between now legal hemp and still illegal marijuana requires technology that's both expensive and hard to come by, so most big-city prosecutors – including in Bexar County – are dropping low-level pot charges until the state comes up with a fix.
Federally, the U.S. farm bill legalized industrial hemp in 2018. Texas lawmakers passed House Bill 1325 in May to regulate the surge of businesses producing and selling hemp-derived products such as cannabidiol or CBD oil.
What lawmakers intended to do was legalize hemp products that contain 0.3% or lower of tetrahydrocannabinol or THC – the psychoactive element in marijuana – but determining THC levels requires the proper equipment. Without this testing, there's no way to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the substance in possession is illegal.
How are different prosecutors handling the fallout from the decision to legalize hemp in Texas? How are elected state officials responding? What happens next?
Why is it so difficult and costly to differentiate between the two substances? Are other states with legal hemp having the same problem? Does this situation affect Bexar County's new cite and release program?
- Jolie McCullough, reports on Texas criminal justice issues and policy for the Texas Tribune
- Geary Reamey, professor at St. Mary's University School of Law; consultant and lecturer for law enforcement agencies, the criminal defense bar and the judiciary
- Joe Gonzales, Bexar County District Attorney
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*This interview was recorded on Tuesday, July 30 .