Monday, July 8, 2019

#TXLEGE: This hemp/marijuana mix-up illustrates MUCH DEEPER Problem with Legislature

"He who is slothful in his work
Is a brother to him who is a great destroyer."
Proverbs 18:9

Statesman has a really good editorial on this industrial hemp/marijuana situation:
In their enthusiasm this legislative session to open up Texas fields for hemp farming, lawmakers ended up sowing a bumper crop of confusion among police, prosecutors and the public.

Now hundreds of marijuana cases are getting dropped across the state, and Texans are receiving mixed messages: Pot remains illegal, but you may or may not get charged for having it, depending on which county you’re in.

It’s the kind of bungled plot we’d expect from a stoner movie, not the state Capitol.

Legislators and Gov. Greg Abbott failed at one of the most basic aspects of passing a law: Making sure the tools exist to enforce it. In this case, House Bill 1325 by Rep. Tracy King, and sponsored by Sen. Charles Perry, defined legal hemp as having less than 0.3% of tetrahydrocannabinol or THC, but no one checked to see if police labs around the state were equipped to distinguish hemp from marijuana, which has a greater concentration of the euphoria-inducing THC.

Turns out, most agencies don’t have such testing available.

For years, law enforcement relied on simple field tests and drug-sniffing dogs to detect the mere presence of THC, not a certain concentration of it. Prosecutors also relied on the testimony of experienced officers that the substance they seized was consistent with marijuana. All of that is out the window now, because none of those methods can distinguish lawful hemp from outlawed pot.
Obviously, this story is amusing. The stoner jokes write themselves. Furthermore, the policy outcome is one this author has long supported.

That being said, there is a serious angle to this story: Legislative sloppiness.

While the hemp/marijuana slip up is humorous, the policymaking environment that enabled it is NOT.

The legislature routinely passes massive, complicated, bills without having a clue what they'll actually do.  Sometimes those bills have real world consequences.  Unfortunately, half-assed policymaking is a predictable consequence of the legislature's culture of entitlement.

Bottom Line: Routine failures at the basic blocking-and-tackling of legislating should disgust all Texans, even if the outcome in this specific case was funny.

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