Willie Nelson notwithstanding, it is still illegal to use or possess marijuana in Texas. But Texas legalized hemp last year, and the inability of police to differentiate between legal hemp and illegal weed has thrown marijuana prosecution into chaos statewide. So on Thursday night, Austin effectively decriminalized small amounts of pot for personal use in a unanimous 9-0 city council vote. The only objection to the resolution during the preceding 90-minute debate came from the head of the Austin Police Association, Ken Casaday.
Austin's resolution does not change state law, but it brings the city "as close as possible to eliminating enforcement action for low-level cannabis possession," The Texas Tribune reports. The city council prohibited the Austin Police Department from spending city funds on testing to determine if cannabis has a prohibited amount of THC, something that currently requires sending samples to private labs. Police can test the cannabis in felony cases but not misdemeanors, or if there is a safety concern.
Prosecutors in Austin's Travis County and elsewhere in Texas are refusing to litigate misdemeanor marijuana cases without a lab report proving the confiscated cannabis is marijuana, not hemp, but Austin Police were still arresting or citing people for suspected marijuana possession. Peter Weber