Last June, the Texas Legislature legalized hemp, for agriculture purposes, in effect legalizing marijuana without mandating field or laboratory tests to determine which is which.
Montgomery County Commissioners approved more money for local law enforcement to acquire these new pricey tests that weren’t often needed before.
Houston criminal lawyer Paul Looney said Texas legislators made a mess out of the marijuana laws when they made legislation defining hemp. That means different jurisdictions within the state might not arrest or prosecute low-level marijuana cases because they cannot convict anyone with reasonable testing under the current hemp definition.
"For the actual legalization of marijuana, I would like for that to go to Austin. I don't want that being done ad hoc. One way in Houston, another way in Austin a third way in Dallas," said Looney.
He said you don't fix a law by ignoring it, if you do that, it’s a slippery slope.
"We're breeding disrespect for the law among the predominant users this is turning into a complete mockery and we need to protect the image and respectability of the justice system at all costs," said Looney.
Field tests (which are in the making) will make it easier to determine the two.
She said you have to be careful what the definition of decriminalization means, it doesn't always mean full legalization.
"A cheap decrim means you just stop enforcing the law period. And what that gets and invites is recidivism. You see more and more repeat offenses happening as a consequence of just ignoring the law," said Rusche.
She said they support a health-based decriminalization of marijuana as opposed to a cheap decriminalization.
She added they don't think anyone should be thrown in jail for smoking a joint. There are too many arrests, but that doesn't mean jail sentence--there's a big space between those two events.
Recovery Unplugged co-founder and vision leader Paul Pellinger said the best marijuana in the 60s was maybe 10-15 percent THC levels and today, the levels are, in some cases, 10 times higher.
"If somebody who was smoking weed in the 60s didn't get high for the past 40 years, 50 years, and then tried marijuana today, they would hallucinate. It's that much stronger," said Pellinger.
Both agree marijuana is addictive.