Legal hemp creating hazy issue for law enforcement agencies

Hemp looks, smells like marijuana, but is legal

By Deven Clarke - Crime and Justice Reporter, Luis Cienfuegos - Photojournalist

SAN ANTONIO - UPDATE: Bexar County Sheriff Javier Salazar released the following statement:

As of June 10, 2019, a new state law has taken effect and is creating an issue for law enforcement across Texas. 

The law, H.B. 1325 (Link below) legalizes hemp production, but also creates a new requirement for successful prosecution of marijuana cases.  The law now requires lab testing of suspected marijuana to ensure the THC level is above that which is legal (.3%). 

The issue at hand is that very few labs, if any, exist in Texas.  Some jurisdictions have begun to dismiss cases by the hundreds (Link below). Bexar County District Attorney Joe Gonzales is reviewing the law's long term implications for us, but his legal advice until a long term decision is made, is that deputies should continue business as usual.

Therefore, all deputies are directed to continue to make arrests, custodial or via cite and release, until further notice. Once a final decision is made, further direction will be given. 

New Law:

https://capitol.texas.gov/tlodocs/86R/billtext/html/HB01325F.htm"

(Previously)

Hemp. It looks and smells like marijuana, and aside from it not getting you high, the a major difference is that it is completely legal in Texas.

People who work at smoke shops in Bexar County said hemp is quickly becoming one of the more popular forms of CBD consumption after its legalization in June.

"The sales have been drastic (and) I've noticed that a lot of elderlies are coming in for their chronic pain, some cancer patients," said Alien Botanicals salesperson Samantha Garcia.

"It's crazy. I can't keep anything in stock. It's next to impossible,” said SA Botanicals salesperson Jaidin Moffett.

Smoke shops specifically label their packaging so there is no confusion. Once the product is out of the bag, however, it can be hard to tell.

Moffett said a friend of his has already encountered that issue.

"He got detained for it, but shortly after, (officers) did a little testing and found out there was no THC on the plant," Moffett said, adding that, about 20 minutes later, his friend was let go.

At a press conference last week to discuss the unified Cite and Release program, law enforcement officials admitted that, currently, THC testing technology is not readily available to law enforcement agencies in the county.

"(Officers) don't have any way of testing the amount of THC that’s in marijuana," Bexar County District Attorney Joe Gonzales said Friday.

Bexar County Sheriff Javier Salazar said deputies have to rely on training and discretion.

"That's all we have to rely upon until some sort of a presumptive test comes along to be able to test for that. So, that's what we've got to rely on," Salazar said.

While the San Antonio Police Department declined to comment, the District Attorney's office reiterated on Monday that the fact that hemp is now legal does not affect probable cause guidelines.

How much time and resources will be put into investigating cases involving hemp, when it's believed to be marijuana, is yet to be seen.

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