District attorneys throughout Texas haven’t prosecuted low-level marijuana offenses for the past few months because their forensic labs can’t tell the difference between legal hemp and marijuana.
Officials with the State of Texas, working with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, said it has found a solution. But at the recent Texas Marijuana Policy Conference in Austin, some prosecutors said they’re still not convinced to make possession charges a priority.
Before this year, anything that looked, smelled like and tested positive for THC was considered marijuana. Then, lawmakers decided earlier this year that anything that had up to a 0.3% psychoactive THC concentration would be classified as legal hemp. Anything with a greater concentration than 0.3% that would be classified as marijuana.
But how could crime labs pinpoint that difference? The Texas Forensic Science Commission has identified a test that could do it.
But Peter Stout, the president and CEO of the Houston Forensic Science Center, said if prosecutors agree to move cases forward again and there isn’t any additional state funding to pay for those tests, another problem will emerge: a backlog of untested drug kits.
“In a laboratory it’s all tied together, resources that I use in control substances, resources that I then don’t have for forensic biology or resources that I don’t have for latent prints or resources that I then don’t have for DUIs, it’s all tied together,” Stout said.
Stout said his lab is currently focused on testing….