Bexar County to Upgrade Crime Lab So It Can Start Prosecuting Felony-Level Pot Cases Again

click to enlarge Bexar County District Attorney Joe Gonzales - Jade Esteban Estrada
Jade Esteban Estrada
Bexar County District Attorney Joe Gonzales
Update: Includes comments from an interview with DA Joe Gonzales.

After a three-month moratorium on prosecuting pot cases, Bexar County District Attorney Joe Gonzales is likely to get back to pursuing charges for high-level pot possession.

The lull in prosecutions came in June after a new Texas law legalizing hemp made it harder for municipalities to prosecute marijuana cases. The problem: establishing the difference between legal and illegal herb requires a lab test.

On Tuesday, however, Bexar Commissioners Court approved a $100,000 gear upgrade to its crime lab that will allow the county to run analyses of confiscated weed.

“What this will do is allow law enforcement to file marijuana cases with us,” Gonzales said. “But our priority is — and has been since I took office — to focus on the high-level cases, the felony cases.”

After he took office, the DA initiated a cite-and-release policy in which those possessing less than the four-ounce cutoff for felony possession receive a ticket rather than jail time. Gonzales said his office won't pursue charges against people caught with less than an ounce of pot.

"We have limited staff, we have limited funds," he said. "So, we're going to focus our attention on keeping our streets safe, on domestic violence and violent crime."

Gonzales was one of at least four Texas DAs to stop pull back on pursuing pot cases after the Texas hemp law went into effect.

Even though Bexar County approved spending money to buy new equipment, Gonzales said it could be four to six months before the lab is ready to begin running tests.

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