Texas Gov. Greg Abbott recently signed House Bill 1325 into law. It allows for the growth, sale and regulation of hemp products such as CBD – cannabidiol – as long as they contain less than 0.3 percent THC, the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana, which remains illegal in Texas.
While more businesses specializing in CBD products are popping up around Houston, Fort Bend County District Attorney Brian Middleton is concerned that more users of marijuana – which is different from CBD but comes from the same plant species – will be able to get away with it.
“The passage of HB 1325 by the Texas Legislature significantly impacts the enforcement and prosecution of the state’s existing criminal marijuana laws,” he said in a statement released last week.
Middleton said there isn’t a problem with Texas’ desire to legalize agricultural hemp production. He said the issue is that the law was enacted without infrastructure in place to regulate the legal production of hemp or the ability of the state’s own scientific labs to distinguish between what has an allowable amount of THC and what does not.
“Unfortunately, the unintended consequence of the law renders prosecution of marijuana offenses impossible until the infrastructure and scientific laboratories are capable of performing the analysis necessary to distinguish hemp from marijuana,” Middleton said.
Middleton said his office has reached out to law enforcement partners with that message. He said the legal standard to initiate a criminal investigation and make arrests has not changed.
Nevertheless, he said the office will not be able to prosecute marijuana violations without a lab test quantifying the concentration of THC. Middleton said pending misdemeanor charges will be dismissed with the opportunity for the office to prosecute if, and when, an acceptable lab test becomes available.
“We will continue to offer our marijuana diversion program which qualifies successful participants’ charges for expunction. Felony charges will be evaluated on a case-by-case basis and will be prioritized for testing and prosecution,” he said. “Public safety is our top priority. We will not sit idly by while drugs infiltrate our schools. And drug runners will not go free if they are moving loads of marijuana through our county.
“It will just take extraordinary resources to prosecute those cases until the infrastructure and laboratory testing is readily available. We are actively researching a solution and once we find one that is reliable and affordable, it will be business as usual.”