Low-Level Cannabis Convictions Plummet After Texas Legalizes Hemp

Seven months ago, the Texas House of Representatives and State Senate unanimously voted for hemp legalization. That decision is having major repercussions on the way the state prosecutes marijuana possession, mainly because law enforcement has very limited resources when it comes to knowing the difference between marijuana and hemp.

The very month that Governor Greg Abbot signed hemp legalization bill HB 1325 into effect, complications became apparent. In Tarrant, Texas’ third most populous county, the district attorney immediately dismissed 235 marijuana cases. His staff had no way of determining whether the individuals who had been charged had been carrying marijuana with over 0.3 percent THC, the state of Texas’ definitional limit for hemp.

There was no allowance in HB 1325 made for additional crime lab funding. So after the hemp bill, court data shows that the number of marijuana-related cases dropped sharply. In the early months of 2019, law enforcement was processing some 5,600 cases a month. After the passage of HB 1325, that number was halved. In November, only 2,000 cases were filed.

Not everyone thinks that’s a bad thing.

“It means that there are fewer Texans that are getting slapped with a criminal record for marijuana possession, something

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