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New Texas law has Travis County dismissing marijuana cases

Friday, July 5, 2019 by Trey Shaar

Travis County District Attorney Margaret Moore said Wednesday her office is dismissing 32 felony cases involving possession or delivery of marijuana or THC, pending further investigation, as the result of a new Texas law legalizing hemp.

The law, which took effect June 10, defines hemp as having a concentration of THC, the psychoactive compound in cannabis, of less than 0.3 percent. A concentration of more than that makes the substance marijuana, which remains illegal in Texas. The DA’s office in Travis and other counties are realizing that crime labs generally don’t have the capability to test for THC concentration. That means defendants can claim the substance in their possession is hemp or something derived from hemp, such as CBD oil.

Austin police and Texas Department of Public Safety labs say it will be eight to 12 months before they will be able to determine THC concentrations. In the meantime, Moore’s office is left with fewer options.

“We would have to find an outside lab that has the capacity to do it and we would have to find the money to pay for that testing,” Moore told KUT. She says the county would also have the expense of paying a representative of a private lab to testify in court.

Moore is telling law enforcement agencies not to bring her office felony marijuana or THC cases without determining whether necessary testing can be done. She assures the public her office will “work closely with law enforcement to ensure that we meet this community’s expectations that we use our resources wisely and still ensure community safety.”

Travis County Attorney David Escamilla’s office said it’s also rejecting 61 misdemeanor marijuana complaints received from law enforcement since the law went into effect. Escamilla told KUT his office will not accept future misdemeanor marijuana complaints unless they are accompanied by a lab report indicating THC concentration.

This story was produced as part of the Austin Monitor’s reporting partnership with KUT. Photo by Gabriel C. Pérez/KUT.

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