Earlier this summer, Tarrant County District Attorney Sharen Wilson did something unusual for an elected prosecutor. She dropped the charges in 234 cases all at once.
They were all misdemeanor marijuana possession cases all filed after June 10, the day that hemp became legal in Texas. And a bunch of DAs across the state did the same thing.
“I don’t know that the legislature had an intent to legalize marijuana,” she said. “They just made it much more difficult to prosecute.”
When the Texas Legislature met earlier this year, lawmakers looked at dozens of bills that would have expanded access to marijuana. In the end, none of them passed.
Texas lawmakers, however, did legalize hemp, and this has forced some counties to change how they prosecute pot possession.
Lots of states are legalizing hemp because Congress lifted a federal prohibition on hemp production in 2018.
The thing is, hemp and marijuana — they’re both strains of the cannabis plant.
“You know what’s interesting to me ’cause I grew up rural Texas — it’s the exact same plant,” Wilson said. “It’s not like you’re driving down the highway and you say, ‘Oh, that’s wheat over here, and this is cotton over there.’ It is the exact same plant.”
So in order to legalize hemp, lawmakers had to redefine marijuana, and they did that by the amount of THC in the cannabis. That’s tetrahydrocannabinol, the stuff that gets you high in pot.