Texas has always prided itself on its independence. So it is only natural that while the rest of the country moves toward decriminalization and/or legalization of marijuana, Texas is pushing for increased prosecutions.
In a July 18, 2019 letter to district and county attorneys, Governor Greg Abbott, Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick, Speaker of the House Dennis Bonnen, and Attorney General Ken Paxton pushed back against a “misunderstanding of how [Texas] H[ouse] B[ill] 1325 works.” Apparently, some Texas district and county attorneys are dismissing marijuana possession cases or failing to prosecute such cases without a formal lab test, relying on H.B. 1325 for support.
Per the letter, H.B. 1325 did nothing more than bring Texas law on hemp in accord with federal law. The 2018 Farm Bill defined hemp as a cannabis plant with up to .3% THC and legalized it as an agricultural product at the federal level. A cannabis plant with more than .3% THC is deemed marijuana and remains illegal at the federal level. H.B. 1325 differentiates between hemp and marijuana under Texas law according to that same criteria, and legalizes hemp (as long as each hemp producer obtains a state license). It does not, however, “abolish or reduce punishment for the possession of marijuana, which remains illegal under state law.” In fact, H.B. 1325 gives district and county attorneys a “new simple prosecution tool…because [they] can prosecute a misdemeanor for failure to have a proper hemp certificate” in addition to traditional marijuana possession offenses.
It remains to be seen whether the letter will actually lead to increased marijuana possession prosecutions, but it’s mere issuance is noteworthy. You can read the full text of the letter here and check out our blog for other developments in the cannabis industry.
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