AUSTIN, TX — Austin city officials effectively decriminalized possession of small amounts of marijuana during a council meeting on Thursday.
Council members passed a resolution that all but ends arrests and fines related to low-level marijuana possession. The council action comes after Texas legalized hemp — a strain of the Cannabis sativa plant species grown specifically for industrial uses — that complicated prosecution of marijuana possession given that both plants are nearly identical.
The legalization of hemp — a prolific, fast-growing plant from which paper, rope, garments and more can be made — required municipalities statewide to spend money on new resources to conduct laboratory tests to distinguish marijuana from the legalized hemp. Rather than absorb such considerable expense, Austin joined a growing list of cities that have instead decriminalized low level amounts of marijuana possession given the inability to test whether seized amounts are hemp or pot.