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Austin, Texas Considers Ending Minor Cannabis Possession Charges

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Amid a confusing recent Texas state law change, which makes it difficult to prosecute cannabis possession charges, several Austin City Councilmembers floated the idea of removing citations for minor cannabis possession charges altogether.

Per a new hemp law that allows for CBD oil and products that contain 0.3 percent of THC or less, Texas law enforcement officers are having a tough time distinguishing hemp from cannabis. Since the new law was put into effect last June, 89 cannabis-related felonies have been dismissed because testing the cannabis or hemp samples for THC content is neither realistic nor feasible. It’s a seemingly minor detail that was overlooked when the hemp bill was originally proposed.

Austin city leadership, being usually lenient on most cannabis-related items, is questioning whether or not it makes any sense to continue to pursue minor cannabis possession charges given the recent hemp law. If minor cannabis possession charges are beginning to be thrown out by judges, leaders wonder, then why pursue them in the first place?

Councilmember Delia Garza, for instance, asked the Austin Police Department what the plan is for its officers. Even if a charge is dropped in court, it still forces citizens to lose money and time. They usually have to take a day off of work to attend court. “If an Austinite is given a ticket, they have to go down to the courthouse, that’s not being able to work that day, having to possibly find childcare that day to basically be told no charges have been filed we’re not going to prosecute this case,” Garza told KXAN.

The Austin Police Department already implemented a lenient plan last year to issue only citations instead of arresting citizens for possession of cannabis. That law was implemented because cannabis possession charges previously made up 44 percent of all Class A and B  misdemeanor citations in the city.

But now city leadership could take it a step further by removing the citations from the picture. Pursuing cannabis possession charges still takes up critical city resources that could be diverted to other important areas.