Gov. Greg Abbott and other state leaders overstepped their expected roles last week when they directed prosecutors across the state to continue prosecuting marijuana-related crimes, even as they await creation of a process to determine whether some marijuana products are illegal under newly passed state guidelines.

The letter, sent to all district and county attorneys in the state, said that “failing to enforce marijuana laws cannot be blamed on legislation.”

Yes, failing to enforce those laws can be blamed on the legislation.

For one, legislation passed in this recent session of the Texas legislature created separate definitions for illegal marijuana products and legal hemp-based products. The difference was defined by the amount of tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, in an item. Any product that contains more than 0.3 percent of THC is illegal.

Texas’ law was enacted to match a federal bill passed last year, which allowed for states to develop their own plans to regulate the production and sale of hemp.

The problem for prosecutors is that state labs are not set up to test marijuana for levels of THC. That’s a bit of a loophole defense lawyers across the state are sure to use.

Galveston County District Attorney Jack Roady earlier this month informed local police departments that his office would not be able to immediately prosecute marijuana cases submitted to his office because the change in the law.

Roady, however, did not go as far as other prosecutors, including those in Harris and Dallas counties.

Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg, who said earlier this month her office will not prosecute low-level marijuana cases without a lab report, responded to the letter and said that it is up to the courts to interpret this law, according to a Texas Tribune story.

“Prosecutors have an ethical duty to be able to prove beyond a reasonable doubt, and laboratory confirmation in drug cases has long been required,” she said in a statement. “When a person’s liberty is at stake, juries demand nothing less.”

The strangest part of the letter from the state to prosecutors is there are other tools they can use to prosecute people suspected of having illegal marijuana, such as a new law that requires people to have a certificate when they transport hemp. The Texas Department of Agriculture has not issued any certificates yet, the letter said.

We have a better suggestion.

The next time the legislature passes a law and the governor signs it, make sure all the tools to enforce — or finance — are in place.

• Dave Mathews

Dave Mathews: 409-683-5258; dave.mathews@galvnews.com

(11) comments

Carlos Ponce

Interesting. When the topic of THC strength in marijuana comes up in these forums, pro-pot pundits claim there are test kits available to check potency. Either they were lying or these kits have not been scientifically scrutinized and results would not stand up in a court of law.

Bailey Jones

You may have missed the story where the cost of the equipment and personnel required to do the testing was discussed. https://www.galvnews.com/news_ap/texas/article_eaeff815-7626-5ead-bfe6-ad59368ea207.html

Carlos Ponce

But the proponents of marijuana assured us testing equipment was available and at not much cost. Guess were WRONG.

Bailey Jones

Probably high. But that's besides the point. This problem was created entirely by your Republican state government, not by the pot heads. Try to stay focused.

Carlos Ponce

Sounds like the robber who said, "Gee I wouldn't have robbed that bank if they didn't have so much money!". - Not a smart argument.

Bailey Jones

So, if I'm in the legislature, I can pass a law that creates a new problem, then write a letter that says it's not my fault? Sweet.

Jim Forsythe

When you enact a policy that does not have all required equipment in place, you have no policy. County District Attorney's are now forced to address this mess, that was created by our state government. Until state or County labs are set up to test marijuana for levels of THC, this law is useless.

Diane Turski

Stop wasting time and money on this marijuana nonsense!! Vote Abbott and the rest of these fools OUT!!!!

Carlos Ponce

Diane, you've said that for how many years now? People will vote for the candidate which best matches their values. Remember, Republicans won ALL state offices and local offices because those candidates reflect their values. Unless Democrats veer from their über-Leftist stance the same will happen next election cycle.

Diane Turski

Carlos, Republicans have been losing more often since 2018, when more Democrats started voting. Many of the Republican "wins" are because of gerrymandering. A higher voter turnout can override even the gerrymandering. Vote those fools OUT!!!!

Carlos Ponce

How many Democrats won statewide office in Texas in 2018. NONE! Statewide offices have NOTHING TO DO with what is termed "gerrymandering". How many Democrats won in Galveston County in 2018? NONE! Gerrymandering if it exists has NOTHING TO DO with Galveston County elected officials.

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