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Marijuana and hemp are two different varieties of the species of plant called Cannabis sativa. They are cultivated for different reasons. Marijuana is considered a drug and is cultivated for recreational use and medicinal preparations; while hemp is cultivated for fiber, seeds, and floral extracts and is referred to as an industrial product. Marijuana and hemp are often identified as the same variety because they look and smell almost identical to one another; but they have differences that establish one as illegal while the other is not. Read on to learn why it is important to learn about each of these varieties as Texas laws surrounding the possession and use of Cannabis continue to evolve.

Marijuana contains a psychoactive plant chemical known as delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol (THC); THC is one of several compounds, called cannabinoids, that is unique to the Cannabis plant. Marijuana is considered to be a highly addictive drug with serious potential for abuse because it has a high concentration of the THC; it has 1-5% by weight on average (though the concentration range goes up to about 20% depending on the variety of Cannabis). Because of these elevated levels of THC, marijuana is designated by the federal government as a Schedule 1 drug, an illegal controlled substance. It is designated by Texas state law the same way, making it a felony crime to possess or cultivate marijuana. (Note: Texas law includes limited medical use exceptions for products containing low levels of cannabinoids.)

Hemp contains lesser amounts of THC than marijuana; it usually has a concentration of about 0.5% or less of the mind-altering cannabinoid. Unlike marijuana, however, it is legal in the US under certain circumstances as of December 2018. Referred to as “industrial hemp,” it was legalized with significant restrictions via the 2018 Farm Bill that President Donald Trump signed into law on December 20, 2018; the restrictions spelled out within the bill include that legal hemp must contain 0.3% or less of THC and that it is subject to major federal regulatory oversight when it comes to cultivation. In 2019, on the heels of that federal move, industrial hemp was legalized in Texas with the same requirement for THC concentration levels.

The key legal issue related to marijuana and hemp in Texas (as in many other places in the US) is how to determine if a drug crime has been committed upon detaining a citizen in possession of any type of Cannabis, since visual identification is subjective. The only way to do this is to collect the drug and have it tested by an approved lab; the measurement of the THC concentration would be definitive. There is a push to find labs capable of performing Cannabis testing in a quick and accurate manner, so Texas laws can be enforced effectively, and valid cases can be prosecuted efficiently.

Austin-based Jarvis, Garcia, and Erskine Law (JGE) handles cases involving drug charges, from misdemeanors to felonies. If you require the services of an experienced attorney with expert knowledge regarding drug-related offenses, contact JGE online or at 512-359-3030 for a consultation.