A new law to legalize hemp and hemp-derived products in Texas is forcing local district attorneys to drop low-level pot cases.
District attorneys in Harris, Fort Bend and elsewhere argue that because HB 1325 redefines marijuana versus hemp, there's no crime lab in Texas that can test the potency of THC, the psychoactive ingredient that produces a high.
Defendants could simply claim the marijuana they're charged with is actually hemp.
One official says the equipment to test the difference costs between $300,000 and $500,000, and more than 20 labs would need it to cover the state.
“What Kim Ogg and the other DAs are saying is we're not going to clog up the courts just to get dismissed by the Court of Appeals or the Court of Criminal Appeals. We're just not going to take them,” says Chris Tritico, Houston-area attorney.
Tritico says the Legislature essentially painted itself in a box.
“It doesn't look like there's going to be a special sessions, so they won't be able to address it for the next two years,” he says. “By that time, so much time will have passed and I really would see the Legislature moving toward legalization.”
“The country is moving that direction anyway, so that's probably where the Legislature is going to end up going.”
However, Tritico warns the DA in Galveston County has chosen to hold on to small pot cases, at least for the time being.