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Texas leaders: Hemp law did not decriminalize marijuana

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Weeks after Texas prosecutors began dropping hundreds of marijuana cases and stopped actively pursuing criminal charges because of complications that arose from legalizing hemp, the state’s leaders have stepped into the fray.

Gov. Greg Abbott, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, House Speaker Dennis Bonnen and Attorney General Ken Paxton, all Republicans, signed a letter to Texas district attorneys, emphasizing that the new hemp law does not decriminalize marijuana. They wrote that the prosecutors who have stepped back from marijuana charges because they can not distinguish between legal hemp and marijuana — almost all of those in the state’s most 10 populous counties — misunderstand the new law.

“Failing to enforce marijuana laws cannot be blamed on legislation that did not decriminalize marijuana in Texas,” stated the letter, which is dated Thursday.

House Bill 1325, which legalized hemp and hemp-derived products like CBD oil, soared through the Texas Legislature this year and was signed into law on June 10 by Abbott. Since then, numerous Republican and Democrat district attorneys have said they can no longer actively pursue misdemeanor marijuana cases, because the new law changed the definition of marijuana from parts of the cannabis plant, to those parts that contain more than 0.3% of tetrahydrocannabinol, the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana that produces a high.

The attorneys have said current testing in public crime labs can’t indicate how much THC is in cannabis, and circumstantial evidence, like the smell of marijuana, no longer gives them enough credibility in court.

This story will be updated.

Source: Texas Tribune by Jolie McCullough

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