Since Texas legalized hemp production on June 10, 2019, the number of cannabis possession cases filed in the state have fallen nearly 66 percent, according to a report from The Facts. According to the report, in May police throughout Texas filed 5,688 misdemeanor cannabis cases; that number fell to 1,919 by November.
According to the report, law enforcement agencies in Texas are expected to roll out testing procedures to differentiate between hemp and THC-rich cannabis; however, there are tens of thousands of low-level cannabis arrests made in the state every year and Shannon Edmonds, director of governmental relations for the Texas District and County Attorneys Association, told The Facts that if tests were requested for all of the state’s cases every year, the Department of Public Safety would be inundated with “such a huge backlog that it would likely never get caught up.”
In July, nine out of 10 of the state’s most populous counties indicated that they would drop or not prosecute low-level cannabis cases following the passage of the hemp law because law enforcement agencies are unable to distinguish between hemp and psychoactive cannabis which casts a reasonable doubt over criminal proceedings. In response, Gov. Greg Abbott, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, House Speaker Dennis Bonnen, and Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton – all Republicans – sent a letter to district and county attorneys urging them to continue prosecuting the cases.
While law enforcement agencies do have the option to send cannabis samples to laboratories to determine THC concentration, it can cost hundreds of dollars for the tests and even more to have laboratory employees need to testify. Edmonds said it “can be hard to justify” those costs for a misdemeanor.