In the more than six months since the State of Texas legalized hemp, marijuana prosecutions have decreased by more than half their previous levels. Prosecutors are not filing lower-level marijuana charges, and they’re spending more at private labs to rule out the possibility that seized substances are hemp rather than marijuana. Although the Texas Department of Public Safety and government crime labs are expected to roll out a new testing method that will allow them to distinguish between hemp and marijuana, the test only will work for plant material. Authorities are unsure if or when they will be able to implement testing that determines whether vape pen liquid or edibles contain hemp or marijuana.
The more significant problem may be that even if government crime labs can perform the testing, they cannot complete all the testing that is now necessary for low-level marijuana prosecutions across the State. Before the State legalized hemp, these tests were unnecessary. Although legislators had ample warning that passing the hemp legalization bill could bring much of the State’s marijuana prosecutions to a halt without boosting funding for government crime labs, lawmakers disregarded the warnings and approved the bill without any provisions for additional funding.
As a result of the legislation, many district attorney offices are refusing to prosecute marijuana offenses unless law enforcement officials obtain expensive private lab tests showing that the substances found are pot rather than hemp. Furthermore, if the matter goes to trial, law enforcement agencies may need to pay lab employees to testify in court, which makes it even more expensive. This mandate has come at a considerable cost to city and county law enforcement agencies. When compared to the interest in prosecuting misdemeanor marijuana offenses, law enforcement authorities often cannot justify the enormous expenses involved.
If you or a family member is facing any criminal charges, we may be able to help. As experienced Texas criminal defense attorneys, we have the knowledge needed to help you navigate through often-complex criminal proceedings. Call us today at (512) 399-2311 and schedule an appointment with one of our criminal defense lawyers and learn how we can assist you.