The Montgomery County District Attorney's Office will not be joining those Texas prosecutors who have prematurely announced limitations on the acceptance of new marihuana cases as the result of the passage of House Bill 1325.
"While that legislation will eventually permit state officials to issue licenses for hemp cultivation and the production of certain hemp products, it is important to note that those agencies must first promulgate rules and regulations to govern the licensing process and the regulation of the hemp industry. At this point no licenses have been issued and no legal hemp is being grown in this State.
It is also important to note that the legislation expressly prohibits the issuance of licenses for the production of hemp products intended for smoking or vaping.
Even after licenses are issued, legal hemp growers and transporters will be required to maintain and produce appropriate paperwork authorizing their activities. With appropriate training and experience, law enforcement officers should have no difficulty developing probable cause to believe that an individual possesses marihuana intended for smoking, rather than lawfully cultivated hemp.
When a peace officer has developed probable cause to believe that an individual unlawfully possesses marihuana, the Montgomery County District Attorney's Office will continue to accept and file appropriate criminal charges. And this office will continue to dispose of marihuana cases utilizing appropriate plea bargains and pretrial diversion programs.
It is true that there will be, for some undetermined period of time, a shortage of laboratories capable of determining the THC concentration of hemp and marihuana, and distinguishing lawful hemp from unlawful marihuana containing a THC concentration of more than 0.3 percent. But the anticipated delays in disposing of those few cases in which individuals persist in pleading not guilty do not justify prosecutors' abdication of their responsibility to enforce the criminal laws of Texas.
This office will not use the anticipated problems in implementing the new legislation as a pretext to achieve the policy goal of ending prosecution of marihuana cases, particularly after the recent failure of all legislative efforts to decriminalize or reduce the penalties for possession of marihuana.