RIO GRANDE VALLEY, Texas – Prosecutors across Texas are dropping hundreds of low-level marijuana charges, and may not pursue new ones without testing.
This comes after the state legalized hemp and hemp driven products.
It’s a new law with an unintended side effect. Although House Bill 1325 did not decriminalize small amounts of marijuana for personal consumption, it did make it more difficult for law enforcement to tell if a substance is marijuana or hemp, according to prosecutors.
“There is no lab in the state of Texas that can test THC level. Nobody is used to that. The only thing we were used to, the only thing that the labs were set up, is to determine whether it’s marijuana or not.” Says Luis Saenz
Before the bill became law, the state defined hemp and marijuana the same. It’s a difference many officials say they don’t have the resources to detect, weakening marijuana cases where people can claim the substance is hemp instead of marijuana. This leaves some prosecutors perplexed, especially because they were not advised about the bill before it was passed.
“This is one of these cases where politicians get together in Austin and for whatever reason they do things without checking with us. They didn’t check with us, my state rep, neither one of them checked with us. I wish they would’ve checked with us so we could express this concern that they are creating.” Says Saenz
But for medical and recreational activists, this could be a step in the right direction for legalizing the substance outright.
“I just hope that the future is soon and people can stand up for what they believe in, for the legalization here in Texas” Says Isaac Barrientos
In the meantime, at least in some parts of the state, some marijuana convictions have been placed in limbo.
Because of the bill’s overwhelming support, the bill went into effect right after being signed by the governor on June 10, leaving prosecutors in difficult positions.