Hemp and cannabis are closely related. They smell the same and look the same. It is challenging to tell them apart. This similarity is causing some issues due to new laws about hemp at the state and federal level in Texas. The state generally takes a stringent stance on cannabis, limiting its use to only a select few medical situations. This confusion due to hemp laws has created a lot of concern in the state.
The Dallas Observer explains that the 2018 U.S. Farm Bill decriminalized hemp with under 0.3% THC content. While on the surface this was straightforward, it did not work well in reality. Because hemp and cannabis are virtually the same to the eye, officers have a difficult time knowing whether someone is breaking the law or not.
Because there is no way to test or tell the difference between cannabis and hemp, officials ended up throwing out many cases that were pending for low-level drug crimes. They felt they would not have sufficient evidence if the defendants claimed the substance was hemp. Some areas even stopped officers from arresting anyone who had a substance identifiable as cannabis or hemp.
Business as usual
Some areas simply ignored the issues and continued as usual. Most notably, El Paso kept making arrests and pursuing charges against people found with a substance that could be either cannabis or hemp. They claim it is easy to tell which substance it is because with certain forms of cannabis there is usually other evidence, such as rolling papers or pipes.
The future of what will happen is unclear, but there is technology currently in development to help tell the difference between hemp and cannabis. However, it will likely not be useable until 2020. Many prosecutors say they will run tests on substances and re-charge individuals they let go because the statute of limitations will not be up.