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Texas hemp law creates difficulties for police and prosecutors

When Texas Gov. Greg Abbott signed House Bill 1325 into law on June 10, he placed police officials and prosecutors in the state in a difficult position. The law legalizes hemp cultivation in Texas, but it does not apply to marijuana. This is a problem for law enforcement and the criminal justice system because the Lone Star State's crime laboratories are not currently able to measure THC concentrations, which is necessary to tell the difference between legal hemp and illegal marijuana.

County attorneys in several parts of Texas have responded to the situation by announcing that they will no longer prosecute individuals for possessing small quantities of marijuana. They say that pursuing these cases would be a waste of taxpayer money as they would lack the forensic evidence needed to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. This has prompted several police departments in the state to advise their officers to not arrest individuals for possessing marijuana.

However, individuals are still being arrested for low-level marijuana offenses in many parts of Texas including Austin. Police officials in these areas say that they will continue to enforce the laws as written even though prosecutors have told them that the individuals they take into custody will likely not be prosecuted.

Experienced criminal defense attorneys could cite the difficulties prosecutors are having with marijuana cases when reminding their clients of the importance of remaining silent and asking for a lawyer. Individuals accused of committing drug offenses often believe the evidence against them is far stronger than it actually is, and their attorneys may seek to have charges reduced or dismissed after studying police reports, forensic evidence and the behavior of the officers involved. However, these efforts could all be for naught if police have already secured a confession.

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