SAN ANTONIO – Hemp is now legal in Texas and marijuana still isn't, but the inability to distinguish between the two plants is why Bexar County District Attorney Joe Gonzales said he won’t prosecute cases for possession of less than 4 ounces of marijuana.
“Right now, we don't have a way to test for the amount of THC in marijuana,” Gonzales said.
Tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, is the compound in cannabis that makes users experience a high.
Bexar County Sheriff Javier Salazar said his office is not looking to purchase the equipment necessary to test for THC, saying the cost of the equipment, which is between $300,000 and $500,000, is too high.
Salazar said, however, his deputies will continue to arrest or cite and release people when marijuana possession is suspected.
“This may be a convicted felon that is on parole and they're in possession of a minor amount of marijuana. So even though that case may not be prosecuted by the DA’s office, it certainly can be a value to the parole board that may revoke that person's parole,” Salazar said.
Salazar said that, in many cases, those possessing marijuana are also guilty of other offenses.
“That person could be carrying something harder, like cocaine. That person could be in possession of a weapon that may have been used in a murder case,” Salazar said.
The idea is to keep jails reserved for violent criminals and people of whom society members are afraid, and to deter others from going down that path, Salazar said.
“We absolutely could still cite and release that person and give them a court date, and, you know, let them ... maybe there's another way to change their behavior other than just locking them up,” Salazar said.
Under the district attorney's new guidelines, even if someone is given the opportunity to participate in the cite-and-release program for marijuana possession, and they don't follow through, there's still a good chance they won't be prosecuted for possession anyway.