Legalization of Hemp in Texas Doesn't Mean Pot Decriminalization
On June 10, 2019, Governor Greg Abbot signed House Bill 1325, which legalized industrial hemp and other marijuana plant products—such as CBD oil—in Texas.
The new legislation changed the definition of cannabis from including specific parts of the plant to those parts that possess an increased level of THC, which is the psychoactive component of marijuana that gives users a high.
HB 1325 creates limits on the types of hemp allowed for manufacturing and mandates CBD retailers to register with the state. Additionally, the law also bans smokable flower.
In response to the new law, however, Texas prosecutors started dropping hundreds of low-level marijuana cases and ceased actively pursuing criminal charges because HB 1325 changed how marijuana is defined. Now, any part of the plant that contains over .03 percent of THC will be deemed cannabis, which means pot below that level is considered hemp.
Prosecutors and forensic experts claim the lab equipment cannot accurately prove THC levels in cannabis. Circumstantial evidence (e.g. the smell of pot and red eyes) are not credible enough in court since defendants can claim that they possess hemp, rather than marijuana.
Keep in mind, the new law doesn’t decriminalize marijuana crimes in Texas. Since hemp production has yet to begin, any encounter with a cannabis-related substance is unlikely to be hemp.
As of July 10, all Texas Department of Public Safety officers has been told to only issue citation for individuals who possess less than four ounces of cannabis, which is a misdemeanor amount. Instead of getting arrested, a citation orders an individual to appear in court and face their criminal charges.
A conviction for possessing less than four ounces of cannabis is punishable by a maximum one-year jail sentence and a fine not exceeding $4,000.