A bill passed by the Texas Legislature will usher in a new era of legal hemp in Texas. The same bill will also explicitly legalize the sale of CBD oil supplements by licensed vendors.
“It was voted out of the House and the Senate unanimously,” said Coleman Hemphill, president of the Texas Hemp Industries Association, a recently formed chapter of the national Hemp Industries Association nonprofit. Ministry of Hemp is also a member of the HIA.
HB 1325 passed the legislature and was sent for signature on May 26. Texas Governor Greg Abbott is expected to sign the bill into law. However, it’s unclear when farmers will actually be able to plant the crop.
UPDATE June 29, 2019: On June 29, 2019, Gov. Abbott signed the hemp bill into law. -KO
“Texas will have to wait until the USDA puts out its [hemp growing] rules, which who knows when that will happen,” said Hemphill.
Predictions for the release official federal guidelines on hemp growing vary from late this year to sometime in 2020.
The bill also clarifies the legality of CBD oil supplements in Texas. Everyday people would be allowed to possess and consume CBD, a massively popular nutritional supplement derived from hemp with numerous benefits. However, CBD sales would be limited to permitted establishments, a process that will be overseen by the state’s health department.
Hemphill was optimistic the licensing process would remain simple and not shut out existing or smaller vendors.
“It should be pretty broad and open,” he said.
The Lone Star State, with its abundant space and long fertile growing season, could be a powerhouse in the growing national hemp industry someday.
A CLEAR PATH FORWARD FOR HEMP IN TEXAS
The bill sets forth clear guidelines for the Texas Department of Agriculture.
These guidelines include limits on the amount and type of fees that can be collected. Fees for applying for a hemp growing license would be limited to $100, with additional limited fees per hemp growing site. The state is also allowed to collect fees if it performs testing for THC levels. Following the current international standards, industrial hemp cannot have more than 0.3% THC. That’s far below the amount present in psychoactive cannabis that makes people feel high.
However, unlike many other hemp growing programs in the U.S., farmers who accidentally grow hemp that tests “hot” (above 0.3% THC) won’t necessarily be forced to destroy their crop.
“It can either be processed into fiber or it can be further processed to below the 0.3 threshhold,” Hemphill told us.
Texas hemp guidelines are expected to overall follow federal guidelines, including those around people with drug convictions. Under the guidelines set forth under the 2018 Farm Bill, many people felony drug convictions would be barred from being a producer in the hemp industry.
Additionally, because Texas did not participate in earlier hemp “research” programs set forth under the 2014 Farm Bill, state officials probably won’t issue hemp growing licenses until the USDA publishes its guidelines.
The bill also prohibits the in-state production (but not sales or use) of smokable hemp products.
CBD REGISTRATION PROCESS TO BE DETERMINED
While stores throughout Texas already sell CBD oil, it’s legal status has been unclear until now.
Although the 2018 Farm Bill removes hemp from the Drug Enforcement Administration’s list of banned controlled substances, the Food & Drug Administration continues to express concerns about the legality of CBD in food or supplements. There have been a few police raids on Texas CBD stores and even arrests at Texas airports over CBD.
HB 1325 should provide clarity around these issues.
“This bill does explicitly allow for CBD in food products and in animal products,” he explained.
The Texas Department of State Health Services will create the guidelines for registration. Hemphill hopes hemp advocates like his organization can ensure the process is fair and easily accessible. Large vendors with multiple locations, such as grocery stores, would only need to obtain one license for their entire operation.
Hemphill doesn’t like that the bill implies that hemp is harmful by requiring vendors to be licensed. CBD has few side effects and the World Health Organization has noted that CBD is very safe with no potential for abuse.
However, he’s also hopeful the process could be good for customers. Some states require CBD vendors to offer third-party lab results and other information about the quality of their products. Similar regulations could protect Texas CBD buyers.
TEXAS HEMP INDUSTRY COULD BE POWERFUL
With unanimous support by Texas legislators, Hemphill sees few remaining hurdles to the future of hemp in Texas.
Though the growing season would allow a fall planting of hemp in the state, unfortunately he doesn’t think farmers will be allowed to plant before spring of 2020 at the earliest.
Support for CBD and hemp comes amid continued resistance to psychoactive cannabis. Bills to legalize recreational cannabis or expand Texas’ extremely limited medical marijuana program failed to pass. They’re expected to be reintroduced in 2021, the next time the state legislature meets.
Ministry of Hemp will continue to closely follow hemp in Texas in the future. We expect the Lone Star State to be a major player in this growing industry, which is predicted to reach almost $2 billion in sales by 2022.