Following the legalization of hemp by Texas legislatures, misdemeanor cases involving cannabis possession halved in the state. The lack of available testing to distinguish between the two plants makes proving cannabis possession or ingestion difficult.
The issue arose when lawmakers wrote into the bill a definition of hemp that includes trace amounts of THC. Both plants contain tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, the psychoactive component. However, hemp contains only trace amounts compared to cannabis. The bill provides for up to 0.3% THC before authorities consider a substance illegal.
Present testing techniques employed by authorities, however, cannot ascertain concentration. Police testing kits only reveal whether THC is present, not how much. Because cops can’t determine if a suspect ingested or carries cannabis or hemp, they can’t prove criminal activity. As a result, prosecutions in Texas dropped by over half.
The first half of 2019 saw about 5,600 new cases involving cannabis each month. Following June’s hemp legalization measure, however, cases fell precipitously. For example, November saw less than 2,000.
Lab Testing to Distinguish Hemp from Cannabis Costly
Still, some jurisdictions remain steadfast in opposition to cannabis. Many utilize private testing facilities with greater capabilities to test in criminal prosecutions. Private labs can determine not only whether THC is present, but also the concentration within a given substance – whether it be the plant itself, a food item, or a suspect’s blood.
However, outside testing proves costly. A single test adds hundreds of dollars to the process. For misdemeanor filings, many district attorneys believe following through isn’t worth the cost.
A new method may change that. Forensics experts prepare to employ a new testing method that determines THC concentration as being above or below 2%. With most cannabis prosecutions involving a concentration of 12% or higher, Texas law enforcement looks to gain a game-changing tool.
Despite legalization efforts taking hold across the nation, Texas continues to expend funds and law enforcement resources punishing cannabis use.