UPDATE: The Austin city council met January 23, 2020 and passed agenda item 59, a proposal that would eliminate low-level marijuana cases.

In 2019, hemp was legalized in Texas when the state legislature passed HB 1325. The law went into effect on June 10, 2019, making cannabis with less than 0.3 percent of THC legal hemp, while anything more than that is considered marijuana.

What legislators didn’t realize when legalizing hemp is that they may have accidentally taken the first steps towards decriminalizing marijuana. When the law took effect, the majority of crime labs in Texas did not have equipment for testing the THC content of cannabis plants. As a result, some district attorneys decided not to prosecute petty marijuana possession cases rather than use taxpayer money on expensive private lab testing.

Source: Texas Office of Court Administration
Source: Texas Office of Court Administration, Mandi Cai

According to the Texas Tribune, misdemeanor marijuana prosecutions in the state have dropped by more than half since the law changed last year. Just a month after legalizing hemp, state leaders sent a letter to prosecutors stating that, “Failing to enforce marijuana laws cannot be blamed on legislation that did not decriminalize marijuana in Texas.” The letter further explained, “Criminal cases may be prosecuted with lab tests or with the tried and true use of circumstantial evidence.”

Despite state leaders push for prosecution, some Texans believe that decriminalization of marijuana is the answer. On Friday, Austin city council member Greg Casar announced that he had a proposal for the City of Austin to stop pursuing low-level marijuana cases. Mayor Pro Tem Delia Garza, Council Member Natasha Harper-Madison, and Council Member Jimmy Flannigan are also supporting the proposal. On January 23, the proposal will be brought to the Austin City Council meeting as agenda item 59.

Upon investigation, I have found education on cannabis and decriminalization is severely lacking.  For more information, I reached out to the state that is leading the country in decriminalization and legalization: Colorado.

I recently traveled to Denver, where I experienced firsthand the post-decriminalization culture. For more perspective, I reached out to someone on the front lines of decriminalization and education: Psychedelic Club Executive Director Joey Gallagher.

More From KUSJ-FM