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Travis County drops 93 pot cases following new hemp law

The Travis County DA also said she will ask law enforcement agencies to work with prosecutors before filing charges in the future.

TRAVIS COUNTY, Texas — Ninety-three marijuana possession counts in Travis County will be rejected following the passage of HB 1325, which allows hemp to be grown, sold and consumed in Texas. That number includes 32 felony cases and 61 misdemeanor cases.

Under the new law, which went into effect on June 10, hemp is defined as cannabis with no more than 0.3% THC on a dry weight basis. The 93 cases were all filed on or after June 10.

“After consulting with the Austin Police Department, the Travis County Sheriff’s Office and the Texas Department of Safety, I am dismissing these cases because we cannot obtain a lab analysis on the substances involved to establish the THC concentration,” said Travis County District Attorney Margaret Moore on Wednesday.

With few labs in Texas able to test for THC levels, other counties have reportedly taken similar actions, with Harris County rejecting charges for four ounces or less of marijuana.

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Travis County will consider using private labs, which would incur additional expenses. Moore said the county will be contacting arresting agencies to evaluate whether the offenses are serious enough to warrant the cost.

“I will also be informing the law enforcement agencies by letter not to file marijuana or THC felony cases without consulting with the DA’s Office first to determine whether the necessary lab testing can be obtained,” Moore said.

Law enforcement agencies and the county’s own budget will have to absorb the cost of additional testing and litigation related to the new provisions.

The 32 felony cases comprise six possession of marijuana cases and 26 THC cases, including 14 state jail felonies of less than one gram, five third-degree felonies of one to four grams, four second-degree felonies involving four to 400 grams and three first-degree felonies filed as delivery of four to 400 grams.

In a press conference on Wednesday evening, Moore said she was writing a letter to all law enforcement agencies telling them not to file felony possession of marijuana or THC cases without consulting the DA first.

"There is no lab capability in Texas right now," Moore said. "That means we would have to go outside. So the law enforcement agencies would have to incur the additional expense of getting private testing done, and this office would have to incur the additional expenses of having that private lab come and testify in our cases, which is often much more than the actual testing.

"So, we need to consult before we file a case to see if it merits the additional expenditure of public money that nobody has budgeted for."

Moore emphasized that in cases involving larger amounts of these substances, there is often other criminal activity involved. She said the DA's office wanted to be mindful of not affecting public safety and said that was an important part of the discussion with law enforcement partners.

“I am confident that this office will work closely with law enforcement to ensure that we meet this community’s expectations that we use our resources wisely and still ensure community safety,” Moore said.

Before HB 1325, Texas defined hemp and marijuana the same, though hemp’s levels of THC are too low for consumers to get high off.

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