The Montgomery County Commissioners approved the creation of an account to fund the testing of hemp and marijuana following the passage of House Bill 1325.
House Bill 1325 legalized hemp for sale as long as it is packaged as a consumable and contains less than 0.3% THC. Legalized hemp cannot be packaged as a smokable product as well.
Montgomery County District Attorney Brett Ligon said while there are not a high number of marijuana cases, which totaled 508 out of more than 16,000 criminal cases in 2018, the costs of testing products in associated cases needs to be covered up front before it is made back up in the court.
Prior to the bill passing, if a product tested positive for containing THC, it was classified as marijuana.
“We continue to focus on violent crime,” Ligon said. “I don’t believe we have a disproportionate response to marijuana, but we’re also not looking the other way. Now we have to quantify the percentage of [THC] at trial, but not at arrest.”
Ligon said products will have to be sent to a private lab and cost a total of $190 between the test and certification. The cost would work its way through to court system and to the defendant.
“The court and county will recover its money,” Ligon said. “But there has to be a fund to front it.”
If every case had to be tested, which Ligon said is not the case, it would cost around $50,000 for a year.
The commissioners unanimously approved the use of $10,000 from the contingency fund to front load the money needed for testing.
In other business, the commissioners heard a preliminary budget report for the upcoming year, which is anticipated to be a total of a 0.8% increase compared to last year, but taxes are predicted to drop by $0.02 per $100 of valuation.
Precinct 3 Commissioner James Noack said he would like to see the budget reduced further before the upcoming budget workshop.