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New law prompts Texas to drop many marijuana cases

On June 10, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott signed House Bill 1325, which effectively creates a legal distinction between hemp products and marijuana. The new law has had an unintentional effect, however. It has thrown the offices of numerous prosecutors into disarray. Many have been forced to drop charges against hundreds of Texans accused of marijuana possession in cases where the quantity of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) in a product is unknown.

What's the problem for prosecutors? The new law makes any cannabis product with a concentration of THC of 0.3% or less "hemp." This includes many cannabidiol (CBD) oils and other products that -- up until now -- have been illegal to possess in Texas.

While the technology needed to accurately determine a product's concentration of THC does exist, the vast majority of Texas crime labs don't have it. Even in large cities like Austin and Dallas, the labs say it will be close to a year before they have the necessary machines and training to provide evidence in such cases.

This is welcome news for many defendants in low-level possession cases -- although some prosecutors say they may refile charges once the new technology is available. While the rest of the United States has undergone a dramatic shift in social attitudes toward marijuana legalization, authorities in this state have remained aggressive about prosecuting people for possession of even small amounts of the drug.

The legal landscape regarding marijuana is constantly in flux. National efforts to decriminalize or outright legalize marijuana are expanding constantly. That's also led to a lot of confusion among ordinary citizens as they seek to understand the complex interaction between federal and state laws where marijuana is concerned.

If you are facing a marijuana possession charge, don't assume that it will be treated lightly. Get experienced legal guidance to protect your rights.

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