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Marijuana charges dismissed after hemp law passes

Many people in Texas may be relieved to learn that hundreds of low-level marijuana charges are being dropped across the state. The state law does not actually decriminalize marijuana for personal use. It does, however, legalize hemp and hemp products like CBD oil, which are non-intoxicating. In order to pursue a case under the new law, police and prosecutors must distinguish between marijuana and hemp. The legislation, which passed as House Bill 1325, redefined the meaning of "marijuana" in state law. While the term previously referred to parts of the cannabis plant overall, the change specifies only those parts that are higher in THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol.

THC is known as the ingredient in cannabis that causes a high. However, most cannabis confiscated by police is not tested for THC levels or the part of the plant from which it came. Law enforcement and prosecutors are arguing that they do not have the resources to test confiscated cannabis. This means that people may be able to argue that the cannabis they had is actually one of the protected forms of hemp or a CBD product rather than the still-prohibited THC-containing cannabis. The legal limit for THC in cannabis now sits at 0.3%.

Consuming marijuana may affect your BAC

While it is perfectly legal for most adults to drink alcohol in Texas, driving under the influence is against the law. That is, if your blood alcohol concentration climbs above 0.08% before you climb behind the wheel, you may find yourself sitting in jail. 

As you likely know, Texas law prohibits most individuals from smoking marijuana or consuming THC in many other ways. If you choose to imbibe, though, you should know how marijuana consumption affects your BAC. Two studies from a researcher at Harvard University shed some light on the matter. 

Texas authorities to drop some marijuana possession cases

In June 2019, a bill allowing the cultivation of hemp was signed into law by the governor of Texas. As a result, prosecutors in Travis County are rejecting possession of marijuana cases that originated on or after June 10 that don't come with a lab report. The reason why the cases are being rejected is that lab equipment can't detect the level of THC in a cannabis sample.

Hemp is defined as cannabis that contains less than .3% THC. Without the proper testing equipment, it is not possible to determine whether an item is legal or not. In addition to Travis County, authorities in Tarrant, Fort Bend, and Bexar counties are also refusing marijuana possession cases. It is expected that it will take up to 10 months for a procedure to be established that would allow for THC levels in cannabis to be accurately measured.

More than 200 cannabis cases dismissed in Texas

Texas residents may be interested to learn that more than 200 marijuana possession cases were dismissed by the Tarrant County Criminal District Attorney from June 10 to June 28. However, it was noted that the cases could be refiled if better testing for marijuana and cannabis becomes available.

This action was influenced by the fact that the Texas Legislature voted to legalize the farming of hemp, which is defined as cannabis with less than 0.3% of THC. However, this has created a problem for a large number of crime labs as they are not able to determine how much THC a product has. There are other implications to this law as well. For example, most drug dogs are trained to identify marijuana and cannabis regardless of the actual THC levels in the products.

AI systems may not be fair to criminal defendants

Artificial intelligence is becoming more and more important as automation takes over many tasks and algorithms make trillions of decisions every day. Even the criminal justice system is impacted by the use of AI, as algorithms are often used to make assessments of defendants. People in Texas who are charged with a crime are innocent until proven guilty, but AI technology like risk-assessment tools can make determinations that are disadvantageous to defendants.

An investigative reporter and ProPublica put out a report about one risk-assessment tool, called COMPAS, that was developed by Equivant. The reporter dug into how the COMPAS algorithm operated and found that the system was unreliable in the task it was designed for, which was predicting future violent crimes among defendants. According to the research, only 20 percent of those who the system thought would commit violent crimes in the future actually did so. Moreover, the algorithm was twice as likely to predict future crimes for black defendants as it was for white defendants.

Texas finally legalizes CBD products, hemp production

On June 10, Texas Gov. Greg Abbot signed a new law that clarifies which CBD products can be legally sold in the state. The new law, which went into immediate effect, also permits Texas farmers to grow federally-approved industrial hemp crops.

According to the law, Texas consumers will be able to legally purchase any hemp or hemp-derived product that contains 0.3% or less of tetrahydrocannabinol, also known as THC. THC is the compound in marijuana plants that causes psychoactive effects. This means that all cannabidiol, known as CBD, products that contain less than 0.3% THC and meet certain quality control and labeling conditions will now be legal. Before the law was passed, CBD oils and tinctures with even minute amounts of THC were banned in the state.

Intoxicated driving includes drugs, too

When it comes to DWI, you may think the law only applies to driving after drinking alcohol. While this does tend to be the focus, Texas law declares that intoxication actually covers all drugs and substances that alter your normal physical and mental abilities.

This means the police can arrest and charge you for driving while intoxicated even if you have not had a drop of alcohol. Use of drugs, including legal ones, is enough qualification. Knowing the law and how drugs can affect your driving may help you avoid legal trouble.

Texas quarterback facing drug, DWI and weapons charges

The University of Texas at El Paso has suspended starting quarterback Kai Locksley after learning that he was taken into custody on June 8. The 22-year-old athlete faces a raft of charges including drug possession, driving while intoxicated, carrying a weapon unlawfully and making a terroristic threat. Media reports indicate that he was released from the El Paso County Jail shortly after his arrest after posting a bond of $2,900.

Police conducted a traffic stop after an off-duty officer reported that he had seen Locksley brandishing a handgun and heard him threaten to discharge it into a group of people. Initial reports do not reveal what may have caused the incident. After pulling his vehicle over, officers claim that Locksley seemed incoherent and had bloodshot eyes and slurred speech. A search of his vehicle is said to have led to the discovery of a Smith & Wesson semiautomatic handgun and a prescription pill bottle containing approximately half a gram of marijuana.

Marijuana discovered in Texas city official's home

Media outlets have reported that the Wichita Falls deputy city manager submitted his resignation after a search of his residence led to the discovery and seizure of marijuana and evidence of marijuana growing. Law enforcement officers from several agencies took part in the May 28 search, but the man was not taken into custody at the scene and no charges have been filed against him.

The search warrant for the man's home was obtained by drug enforcement investigators from the Wichita County District Attorney's Office following an investigation that began in April when a confidential informant reported that marijuana was being grown in the home. The informant is said to have told investigators that he was reluctant to come forward because the home was owned by a senior government official.

CBD arrests continue despite changes in law

People in Texas continue to face severe prosecutions for drug offenses even as a growing number of jurisdictions across the country move toward legalization of cannabis products. Many people use CBD oil or other hemp-based derivatives for their medical and other therapeutic effects. These concentrates do not contain a significant amount of THC, the active ingredient in marijuana that produces a high. Still, they can contain enough remnants in order to produce a positive test. This has left many CBD products in a legal limbo, even after changes in the 2018 federal farm bill that appear to have legalized the products.

One 71-year-old woman spoke about her experience after being detained at Dallas-Fort Worth Airport as she went to travel to visit her granddaughter in Oregon. She was handcuffed after her CBD oil was found in her travel bag. The woman lives in Mexico; the oil is legal in both her hometown and in her granddaughter's state of Oregon. The woman said that she was disbelieving when told that she was under arrest. However, she learned that the issue was serious as she was taken to the DFW Airport Jail and then the county jail. Felony drug charges were filed against her but later dropped.

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