On December 5, 2019, Texas Highway Patrol pulled over a U-Haul truck for an alleged traffic violation. Officers then searched the cargo area of the truck, which was loaded with 3,350 pounds of hemp. But Texas Highway Patrol thought it was marijuana, not hemp. The driver of the truck, 39-year-old Aneudy Gonzalez, showed officers lab sheets identifying the cargo as hemp. But lab sheets weren’t enough to convince Texas cops or the DEA agent they called for backup. Instead, troopers arrested Gonzalez, charged him with felony possession, and threw him in jail in Amarillo.
One month later, Gonzalez is now a free man. A federal court threw out his case and dropped the charges against him. But Gonzalez still had to spend a month in jail because Texas police and federal DEA agents couldn’t distinguish between illegal marijuana and legal hemp.
Innocent Driver Spent Month in Jail for Transporting Legal Hemp
After seizing 3,350 pounds of hemp mistaken for marijuana, Texas Department of Public Safety Troopers took to social media to brag about their latest and greatest drug bust. They slandered an innocent man, Aneudy Gonzalez, as a drug trafficker they’d taken off the streets and proudly stood for photographs beside the thousands of pounds of seized hemp they said was dangerous marijuana.
But Gonzalez wasn’t trafficking weed. He was delivering hemp from California to a commercial buyer in New York. He had lab reports showing that the plants were hemp and that they contained less than the legal limit of 0.3 percent THC. But none of that mattered to Texas state troopers or a DEA task force agent called in to assist with the “bust.”
DEA Agent Admitted to Not Knowing Texas, Federal Hemp Laws
It didn’t matter, because law enforcement officials were completely ignorant about the law. Both Texas Highway Patrol and a DEA agent had no idea about the recent federal legalization of hemp or Texas’s own hemp laws. They also had no idea what the legal THC limit for hemp is. The DEA agent called in to assist believed the limit was 0.03 percent THC. But the actual legal limit is ten times higher at 0.3 percent.
Furthermore, Texas troopers had no probable cause to arrest Gonzalez. But because of the DEA’s failure to distinguish between marijuana and hemp, Gonzalez had to spend a month in jail under the custody of U.S. Marshals.
“The idea that Texas DPS and ultimately, a DEA task force agent, would have no idea what the law is and people go to jail that are completely innocent is horrifying to me,” said Gonzalez’s attorney, Daniel Mahler, in a statement.
Federal Court Dismisses Felony Possession Charges
It would take a month for federal DEA agents to run their own tests on the 3,350 pounds of hemp seized by Texas police. Those tests proved what Gonzalez had been saying all along: he was transporting legal hemp with less than 0.3 percent THC.
As a result, a federal court dismissed the felony charge against Gonzalez: “possession with intent to distribute 1000 kilograms or more of marihuana.”
Now, Gonzalez and his attorney are seeking damages and compensation for the month Gonzalez spent behind bars for doing nothing wrong. After his release January 2, Gonzalez flew back to New York City where he was reunited with his family.
“The idea that we’re going to arrest people and sort it out later is — that’s not how any of this works,” Mahler said.