Council’s Judicial Committee addresses THC testing and marijuana enforcement under House Bill 1325

During the Austin City Council’s Judicial Committee meeting on September 2, members listened to testimony about THC testing and marijuana enforcement under House Bill 1325.

House Bill 1325 legalized hemp and hemp-derived extracts, such as CBD oil, with less than 0.3% THC.

Local businesses like Prohibition Creamery have taken advantage of this opportunity by expanding into this market. Stay tuned to the BG Podcast to hear from Laura Aidan, owner of Prohibition Creamery, about her path into this market. 

Austin Police Department (APD) Chief of Staff Troy Gay underscored the department’s stance that marijuana is illegal under state and federal law, but APD will not be increasing police efforts for marijuana related cases. 

Enforcement of marijuana cases is increasingly difficult with the Travis County Attorney’s office currently not accepting charges regarding marijuana. Marijuana cases have two years of statute of limitations, so these cases may be reviewed at a later time based on how the Attorney’s office chooses to proceed in the future. 

Another hurdle for the APD is the ability to test for THC levels, which was the focus of the agenda item. APD is working with the Texas Department of Public Safety and Texas Forensic Science Commission about testing for THC levels, but APD does not expect a recommendation for another 6-12 months.

Ionization Labs, who’s co-founder Cree Crawford spoke during the public testimony, offers a hemp and marijuana in-home testing solution. Hear from Cree on BG Podcast during the Fall season regarding Ionization Lab's’ innovative solution.

The cost and time of these future recommended testing will influence future enforcement. APD currently has a method that could test for THC levels, but APD is currently focusing this resource on higher priority cases. 

During public commentary, the testimonies pushed for less enforcement of marijuana cases by APD. A large focus was on limiting spending on the costly persecution of marijuana cases to limit waste of public resources. 

Another concern during the public testimony was the smell test, which gave police probable cause to conduct searches if the odor of marijuana was suspected.

Due to the new law, the smell test is not enough for probable cause since hemp and marijuana have similar scents, which could result in unnecessary searches. Now the APD requires more evidence for probable cause, which can be in addition to the odor presence of marijuana, prior to conducting a search. This directive is in APD’s training bulletin to alert officers of the change. 

APD primarily concern remains on public safety, which is the priority motivator regarding their marijuana enforcement. 

//Julie Pottrykus, Associate