Texas marijuana enforcement inconsistent after hemp legalization

In June 2019, hemp production became legal. Law enforcement agencies, however, lack an easy way to differentiate between hemp and marijuana. The situation has resulted in inconsistent enforcement of marijuana laws throughout the state. Some law enforcement agencies continue to cite people for possessing marijuana and sometimes arrest them. In other communities, law enforcement leaders have chosen to largely ignore marijuana.

In Round Rock, the county attorney’s decision not to prosecute people possessing small amounts of marijuana has prompted the local police department to cease marijuana citations or arrests. Leadership in Austin has taken the opposite approach. The Chief of the Austin Police Department said that the continuation of marijuana enforcement was important to public safety. A political fight appears to be brewing over citations and arrests for marijuana in Austin. The city council has scheduled a hearing to determine if law enforcement should apply resources to minor marijuana offenses.

Across the region, the KVUE Defenders determined that the police departments in Lakeway, Cedar Park, Manor, Kyle and Hays County have maintained marijuana enforcement actions. They do this even knowing that prosecution is not likely to occur. The Travis County Sheriff’s Office, however, has chosen to take a similar approach to Round Rock.

As approaches to marijuana enforcement continue to evolve, a person might want a legal opinion about the seriousness of a case after receiving a drug charge. An attorney might explain what the laws say on the books and offer an opinion about how the local prosecutor will treat the case. Potentially, a defense attorney might convince a prosecutor to dismiss the case if the person only possessed small amounts of marijuana. In more serious cases, an attorney might act to negotiate a lenient plea deal or defend the person at trial.