The Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) said it would no longer test potential illegal cannabis in low-level cases. The announcement comes after the Texas DPS will be starting a new test to distinguish illegal cannabis from hemp.
The DPS’ director Steven McCraw said in a letter that the law added resources to the laboratory to help expedite the analysis of those felony cases, however, additional funding to address misdemeanor cases was not provided because the laboratory does not analyze misdemeanor drug cases.
McCraw said on a yearly basis in Texas, 80,000 low-level cannabis arrests are made and he said the lab wouldn’t be able to keep up with all of the testing in addition to the testing for the 50,000 felony cases that are taken on. In the past, the DPS didn’t test in misdemeanor cases unless a special request was made. Last year, Texas Legislature changed the definition of cannabis in order to legalize hemp. Many DAs thought the state would help with testing the backlog of cases caused by the new hemp law.
“We’re telling law enforcement in the county that you can still arrest people, but we’re not prosecuting them,” said Waller County prosecutor, Warren Diepraam. ‘It’s correct that we’re not going to be able to prosecute any misdemeanor drug cases because DPS will not test them.”
Other cities in Texas have already considered decriminalizing small amounts of cannabis. The Austin City Council emphasized that it wasn’t trying to change state law, but rather reprioritizing how they use their resources.
“If there’s no intent to sell or distribute, we’re not going to mess with it,” said Greg Casar, who sponsored the proposal. “Most Texas voters want to see marijuana legalized. Most Texas voters don’t want to see counties or cities dedicating extra resources to marijuana cases. We’re simply doing what we believe is right given the situation.”