Texas Lawmakers Redefined Cannabis, Causing Prosecutors Problems

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Thanks in part to the increasing interest in CBD products, many businesses have been eager to profit off of non-psychoactive cannabis. Their interest has certainly expanded beyond states with recreational and comprehensive medical cannabis programs. Many companies are now selling CBD in all 50 states. However, businesses and CBD users alike have run into a host of issues, ranging from federal disdain for CBD products to unclear state statutes. The same is true of farmers wanting to grow hemp.

An attempt in Texas to change state rules to allow access to CBD and industrial hemp farming has only further complicated the existing system for law enforcement and prosecutors. Texas is known for having a relatively strict penal code, especially when it comes to drug offenses, like cannabis possession. The very fact that elected officials in Texas would change the law to be more tolerant of CBD is a surprise and a sign of how mainstream cannabis has become.

What perhaps isn’t a surprise is the fact that because of the strict stance and harsh penalties associated with drug offenses in Texas, their criminal labs don’t actually have the capacity to do proper testing on cannabis. That, in turn, is making it very difficult for prosecutors to bring charges against people for cannabis offenses.

Texas lawmakers, hoping to allow businesses to profit off of CBD, changed the state definition of marijuana from specific parts of the cannabis plant to only parts of the plant that are high in THC. In other words, potency directly impacts whether or not someone breaks the law in Texas. Unfortunately, it seems as though Texas does not have crime labs capable of determining potency in cannabis or cannabis products.

Although there are plenty of labs with the ability to check for the presence of THC, determining the actual potency is outside of the capabilities of many of these facilities. Given how many states have become frighteningly comfortable with railroading those accused of cannabis possession and similar crimes, the fact that Texas crime labs don’t even have the ability to accurately measure THC comes as little surprise.

So, to recap, Texas has effectively legalized the growth of hemp but it has not decriminalized cannabis. What it has done is alter the definition of cannabis under state statutes, which has caused prosecutors in several counties to stop pressing charges for low-level possession offenses. They say things are bigger in Texas, and apparently that includes the cutoff for a “small amount” of cannabis. People in possession of four ounces of cannabis or less will likely not wind up prosecuted until Texas fixes its crime lab issues.

For the time being, that approach directly benefits individuals accused of possession, as the state seems to prefer to err on the side of caution in dismissing these charges rather than pursuing them and paying for laboratory testing. Perhaps Texas lawmakers will realize how wasteful and pointless prohibition is thanks to this unexpected hiccup with its new CBD/hemp policy.

For previous Ladybud articles about Texas, click here.