Texas Legalizes Hemp Decreasing Marijuana Prosecutions
On June 10, 2019 Governor Greg Abbott signed House Bill 1325 into law which legalized the commercial production, manufacturing, and retail of hemp products in Texas. Since then, a variety of smoke shops retailing cannabidiol (CBD) have made their debuts across the state, as well as a few dispensaries. While this was exciting news to those who work in this counterculture industry and Texans who have been looking for more herbal and holistic ways to soothe any ailments, prosecutors have found the new law to hinder their process when handling marijuana charges.
As Governor Abbott explained, the legalization of hemp does not decriminalize marijuana. Hemp is a type of cannabis that does not have any psychoactive properties, containing less than 0.3% THC, and prosecutors acknowledged that the new bill has redefined marijuana as being over that percentage. However, it is hard to distinguish legal hemp from illegal marijuana being that they come from the same species, look the same and even share the same scent. Crime labs do not have the equipment, time or money it would take to test every confiscation of a suspected marijuana substance.
According to the Texas Tribune, though labs will be able to distinguish the two in plant form, they do not have the equipment to test the contents of cartridges, edibles, or any other marijuana infused products. At this point, officers seem to be giving up on making arrests and attorneys are practically giving up on misdemeanor marijuana cases altogether.
On Thursday, January 23, 2020, the Austin City Council voted 9-0 to cease arrests and fines for low-level marijuana possession and focus on heftier crimes and public safety. Councilmembers are aiming to deplete low-level offences and potentially stop funding the Austin Police Department’s objectives to test and distinguish hemp from marijuana.
So, what could this all mean?
Well, we don’t exactly know. However, we do wonder how long local government officials and police departments can keep up with impending cases and limited resources. We see there are political figures who understand that the harsh impact of petty marijuana charges is just not worth it, as well as various organizers who work to combat the misfortune met from these laws. According to research conducted by the Last Prisoner Project, 15.7 Million People were arrested for marijuana in the last decade. Many people also face threats such as loss of benefits, or even deportation. Marijuana offences have continued to contribute to the disfranchisement of minority demographics. These offenses have proven to be beneficial to neither lawmakers nor citizens, who may be in need of remedies they cannot find or afford in a doctor's office.
Though we cannot predict the future, we are optimistic for potential positive life and industry changes. What do you guys think?