According to The Texas Tribune, in misdemeanor cases, the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) will not be performing lab tests to distinguish between marijuana and hemp. While DPS is ready to debut their much-anticipated lab tests for discerning whether a substance is illegal marijuana or legal hemp, it has notified the state’s law enforcement agencies that it will not be performing these tests in misdemeanor cases.
The Definition of Marijuana
The situation is the result of a change that was recently implemented by the Texas Legislature that altered the official definition of marijuana. Texas legalized hemp, which is a substance that can look and smell just like marijuana, in 2019. Both marijuana and hemp come from the cannabis plant. The difference is that cannabis that contains more than a specific percentage of THC (0.3 percent) – the compound associated with a high – is an illegal drug and that cannabis with any percentage of THC lower than that is not illegal.
Making the Change
After this change came into effect, lawmakers asked for a mechanism to make the distinction between illegal marijuana and legal hemp for cases at every level. While the DPS is in the process of rolling out tests that can make this distinction, the legislature failed to provide funding for such testing at the misdemeanor level. As such, DPS will not be accepting samples for testing in misdemeanor cases.
A Legal Patchwork Effect
The change in the law has had a legal patchwork effect across the State of Texas. While some prosecutors have proceeded as before and base their cases on circumstantial evidence without the aid of lab tests, others have simply stopped accepting any low-level cases involving marijuana unless the police can ante up a test result that identifies the substance in question as illegal.
Because no such test was available, police departments have been faced with either seeking expensive privately performed tests or letting their misdemeanor cases gather dust while the government tinkered with testing. Now that testing is about to make its debut – but not for misdemeanor cases. While districts with the resources to do so may continue using more costly private tests for their misdemeanor cases, districts with fewer resources are unlikely to pursue this course.
In Texas, a misdemeanor marijuana charge amounts to the following:
Possession of up to 4 ounces
Sale or delivery of up to 7 grams
The fines and consequences of a misdemeanor conviction, however, are significant, including:
Up to $4,000 in fines
Up to 1 year behind bars
Facing Drug Charges? It Is Time to Consult with an Experienced Killeen Criminal Defense Lawyer
Misdemeanor marijuana charges in Texas are serious. Brett Pritchard has extensive experience successfully defending the rights of clients like you. We are on your side, so please do not hesitate to contact or call us at 254-501-4040 for more information today.