Nacogdoches County ADA weighs in on legalized hemp’s impact on marijuana cases

Nacogdoches County ADA weighs in on legalized hemp’s impact on marijuana cases
Updated: Jul. 18, 2019 at 2:58 PM CDT
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NACOGDOCHES COUNTY, Texas (KTRE) - Hemp’s legalization in the state of Texas has forced many law enforcement agencies to reconsider how quickly they pursue criminal charges in marijuana possession cases, including authorities in Nacogdoches County.

When Gov. Gregg Abbott signed House Bill 1325 in June, it legalized industrial hemp and products derived from the plant, redefined what marijuana is considered in the state of Texas. It also changed some of the processes in the investigation and prosecution of marijuana cases.

“Essentially, it’s not going to have a change in the way we investigate marijuana cases,” said Andrew Jones, an assistant district attorney in Nacogdoches County. “Whether or not it’s marijuana is going to be determined later on, I believe.”

If a police officer pulls over a driver and they smell what they believe is marijuana in the vehicle, Jones explained that probable cause will still allow the officer to search the vehicle.

When it comes to prosecution, however, the district attorney’s office will take a case-by-case practice.

“We’ll look at the evidence, see if there’s circumstantial evidence to prove that the substance was in fact marijuana,” Jones said. “If we don’t believe there is sufficient evidence at that time, the drugs will be sent off to the lab; DPS already has something in place so they are able to test for and distinguish between hemp and marijuana.”

The test will depend largely on the concentration of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) in the plant. The new definition of marijuana only pertains to cannabis that contains more than 0.3 percent of THC, the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana that produces a high. Anything less is hemp, and charges will not be filed.

Farmers or drivers who transport hemp are required to show proof and certification that corresponds with the plants in tow, as well as a shipping receipt authorizing the transport.

The most important takeaway, Jones said, was that the new law in no way legalizes marijuana.

“The marijuana laws are still in full force and effect,” Jones said. “Nacogdoches County is still going to investigate and prosecute those cases because it is still against the law.”

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