Gov. Greg Abbott Urges Texas DAs Against Dropping Misdemeanor Marijuana Possession Cases

Governor says state district and county attorneys should continue to enforce Texas' laws; Dallas County DA says he won't prosecute without evidence

Dallas County District Attorney John Creuzot fired back at Texas Gov. Greg Abbott Thursday saying he won't prosecute people without evidence of their guilt after the governor sent a letter to all Texas district and county attorneys earlier in the day urging them to "uphold their oath and faithfully execute the law" when it comes to prosecuting marijuana cases.

Abbott signed a letter, along with Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, Speaker Dennis Bonnen and Attorney General Ken Paxton, that reaffirmed marijuana was still illegal in Texas and that cases of marijuana possession should still be prosecuted.

The governor's letter comes after some district attorneys said they were going to temporarily stop prosecuting misdemeanor marijuana possession cases that didn't have test results showing the level of THC.

"Marijuana has not been decriminalized in Texas, and these actions demonstrate a misunderstanding of how H.B. 1325 works," the governor's letter states. "The power to change the law is legislative and rests with the Texas Legislature under the Texas Constitution. Since H.B. 1325 did not repeal the marijuana laws of Texas, as Judicial Branch Members, you should continue to enforce those laws by 'faithfully executing the duties of the office of the [District or County Attorney], of the State of Texas, and ... to the best of [your] ability preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution and laws of the United States and of this State.'"

Several Texas DAs took up the position after the state legislature legalized hemp and CBD with less than .3% THC -- the chemical that produces a high. Tests currently at the disposal of law enforcement can only distinguish whether THC is present and not whether or not it's over or under .3%.

District attorneys in Tarrant, Dallas and Denton counties are not prosecuting misdemeanor possession cases since they lack the ability to test hemp products for THC.

Dallas County District Attorney John Creuzot said no office in the state has the instruments to conduct the tests to determine the THC level and, for now, won't prosecute the misdemeanor cases.

"It may be six months to a year before we can distinguish one from the other, and therein lies the problem because right now there's no way to tell whether Cannabis sativa L. is hemp or marijuana," Creuzot told NBC 5 last week.

Creuzot said the instruments are costly and need to be budgeted for before they can be acquired.

District attorneys in Tarrant and Denton counties joined Creuzot in tossing out cases where there they lacked evidence indicating the level of THC present. DAs in Harris and Bexar counties, where Houston and San Antonio are located, are taking a similar position.

Still, Abbott and other Republican leadership want district attorneys to press on saying valid products would be accompanied by a "hemp certificate" indicating it's less than .3% THC.

The governor's letter went on to say there are other options for testing hemp beyond lab tests and that the lab tests "are not as costly as some initial reporting indicated."

Creuzot responded to the governor's letter Thursday afternoon saying, "I have the responsibility to protect the rights of our citizens and ensure that people are not prosecuted for possessing substances that are legal. The concentration of THC is a statutory element of an offense that we must prove to establish a person's guilt. Our office will not charge a person with a marijuana offense without a laboratory report stating that the substance has an illegal concentration of THC."

Creuzot went on to assure the governor that neither he nor his office was confused by the legislation signed by the governor.

"HB 1325 was not confusing to the Dallas County Criminal District Attorney’s Office. We thank Governor Greg Abbott for taking the time and effort to clarify what he obviously thought, and we agree, was a clearly written bill at the time he signed it into law," Creuzot said.

Abbott's full letter can be read below; Creuzot's response is embedded at the bottom

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