KAUFMAN, Texas - The Kaufman County District Attorney’s office will join prosecutors across the state who say they won’t prosecute for low level marijuana charges going forward without further testing thanks to unintended consequences of new legislation.
House Bill 1325 was signed into law by the Governor last month on June 10, 2019, and became effective immediately. The new legislation will enact regulations to govern hemp production as a crop through the State of Texas Hemp Production Plan.
An unintended side effect of the law is that it has made it difficult for law enforcement to tell if a substance is marijuana or hemp, according to prosecutors. House Bill 1325 changed the definition of marijuana from certain parts of the cannabis plant to those parts that contain a higher level of tetrahydrocannabinol, the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana that produces a high.
It’s a difference numerous district attorneys, the state’s prosecutor’s association, and state crime labs say they don’t have the resources to detect, weakening marijuana cases where defendants could claim the substance is instead hemp.
“At this time, the Kaufman County District Attorney’s Office (KCDA) does not have any cases that have been filed after June 10, 2019, that is only cases involving the possession of marijuana,” Kaufman County District Attorney Erleigh Wiley tells inForney.com via email. “As we receive those cases, we will make individual decisions about the prosecution of the cases and will have to seek the assistance of private labs that are equipped in the testing of quantitative analysis of the amount of THC.”
A spokesperson for the Texas Department of Public Safety, which runs more than a dozen state crime labs to conduct forensic testing, including drugs, for local agencies said it does not have equipment, procedures, or resources to determine the amount of THC in a substance.
Prosecutors from across the state and political spectrum — including Bexar, Travis, Harris, Tarrant, Lubbock and Dallas counties — have dismissed hundreds of pending marijuana charges since the law was signed. They have also said they won’t pursue any new charges without testing a substance to indicate if there is more than 0.3% of THC, the now-legal limit to distinguish between hemp and marijuana. Wiley and her office have joined that sentiment.
“KCDA’s will continue to accept marijuana cases, but to prosecute these cases there will have to be a lab result proving that the evidence seized has a THC concentration of over 0.3%,” Wiley tells inForney.com.
According to Wiley, the arresting agencies will be financially responsible for the testing.