2019 hemp law gums up pot prosecution in Houston area

13 Investigates analyzed pot possession cases in Harris County and the surrounding area before and after the hemp law went into effect in 2019.

Video Transcript

- It has been nearly two years since Texas changed the way the state prosecutes marijuana cases, and a new investigation reveals pot law in Texas has never been hazier. Our 13 Investigates team and Ted Oberg are trying to clear it up. Ted.

TED OBERG: Depending on where you're caught with pot in Texas, you could end up in court or a class or nowhere at all. And this stuff? Forget it. Texas has so many problems testing pot edibles and vapes, it's almost impossible to prosecute.

DR. PETER STOUT: It contaminates instruments. It damages instruments.

TED OBERG: Which is why, in some counties, it's hard to find a pot possession case. Just years ago, there were thousands, and there are even fewer now since Texas law changed in 2019.

KIM OGG: The reduction of marijuana prosecutions has been intentional by my administration.

TED OBERG: But in others, it's like nothing has changed at all in recent years.

MIKE HOLLEY: Lawmakers have created a problem for law enforcement, and they don't seem to have any interest in resolving that situation.

TED OBERG: We've looked at the pot cases in courtrooms all over the Houston area. The differences, the difficulties, the double standards. 13 Investigates the haze surrounding pot prosecutions tonight at 10:00.

- And Ted is here with us now in the studio to talk a little bit about the team's investigation into this. Ted, why look into pot prosecutions these days?

TED OBERG: You know, Myra, it's a good question. We know pot isn't the most serious drug. Not even the most serious drug crime that Texas prosecutors have to deal with. But it's been two years since that law, and personal users in places like Harris County have virtually little to nothing to worry about because prosecutions are down so low.

But in some counties in our area, thousands of pot prosecutions, even for small amounts, are still being made, and that was something we wanted to take a look at. Is there a double standard? Where is that Happening? And why? Well, we'll get into that tonight at 10:00.

- All right, Ted. Now we also know that you went to a lab that tests marijuana where they told you about some of the problems, big problems. What's the issue on testing here?

TED OBERG: Boy, and I tell you, Eric, that is a huge problem as we look at the future of marijuana prosecutions in Texas. That law in 2019 forced a scientific reckoning of what marijuana really is in Texas. And to do that test, it's taking out more people, and more time, and more money, but the state did not send any more cash towards labs in Texas. Not even to the DPS that does so much testing outside Harris County and the city of Houston.

So what are they dealing with, and what's the giant problem when it's anything but what you see on your screen there, that leaf marijuana? What about a gummy or a vape or anything that is sort of a marijuana product? And what are the huge problems that it's creating in labs across our state? We're going into that tonight at 10:00, as well. See you in just a couple hours.

- You got it, Ted. Thanks a lot. Of course, Ted's team is wrapping up the work on their latest piece for, as you heard, 10 o'clock News tonight.

- Wait for it then.