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Harris County Will Stop Prosecuting Some Marijuana Possession Cases

Prosecutors will only accept criminal charges if the evidence seized has a THC concentration of over 0.3 percent. THC is the psychoactive element in cannabis.

Andrew Schneider/Houston Public Media
This file photo shows Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg during a news conference held in Houston in April 2019.

Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg announced on Tuesday her office will only accept criminal charges for misdemeanor possession of marijuana if a lab test result proves that the evidence seized has a THC concentration of more than 0.3 percent.

THC, technically named tetrahydrocannabinol, is the psychoactive element in cannabis.

Ogg said in a news release that the new guideline is based on a state law passed this year by the Legislature that creates a State of Texas Hemp Production Plan and allows farmers to grow hemp as a crop.

The text of the law establishes that hemp is considered to have a maximum THC concentration of 0.3 percent on a dry weight basis.

"This necessarily means that the THC content and quantification is now relevant to prosecuting all marijuana cases," said Ogg. "The new definition of hemp necessarily changes the definition of marijuana."

In Texas, possession of four ounces or less of marijuana is a misdemeanor. The DA said her office will work under the premise that in misdemeanor cases, if the THC concentration is less than 0.3 percent, the substance is hemp. A THC concentration greater than 0.3 percent would be classified as marijuana. Under the new law, Ogg said proof beyond a reasonable doubt will require laboratory testing for THC concentration.

In March, Ogg announced that convictions for marijuana possession-related misdemeanors in Harris County had gone down 80 percent since her office implemented a pre-charge diversion program that allows people to go through special courses instead of being arrested.

Ogg said Tuesday that her office will evaluate felony charges for possession of marijuana on a case by case basis and charges may be taken while lab test results are pending.

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