Rep. Tracy King (D-Batesville), the primary sponsor of HB 1325, has characterized the legislation as a “right-to-farm” bill that would provide additional crop options for Texas farmers.
Hemp is a cannabis plant related to marijuana, but contains only a fraction of the tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) ingredient found in marijuana that induces a high. Hemp contains 0.3 percent THC, while marijuana contains anywhere between nine and 30 percent, resulting in a psychoactive effect.
The legislation would not legalize marijuana in the state.
Gene Hall, director of the Texas Farm Bureau’s communications division, attributed the success of the legislation to a wider public awareness.
“We have been working on it. What’s held it back is because it is related, botanically, to the marijuana plant,” Hall said. “A lot of people fear it will be some kind of gateway to legalization of marijuana. And there’s still a lot of opposition to that [legalization] in the legislature…this is a crop that is, first of all, has only minor trace amounts of THC. You can’t smoke enough of it to get high. It’s impossible.”
Hall also stated that hemp is a dry pollen crop, meaning that anywhere corn crops are grown in Texas should also be fertile ground for growing hemp. This could potentially be good economic news for farmers in need of a crop alternative during periods of drought.
Hemp is used for a variety of purposes. Cannabidiol (CBD) oil, a derivative of the crop, is often used for stress and pain relief. Hemp is also commonly used to make rope, strong fabrics, and paper.
Hemp production legislation has been introduced in previous sessions, but failed to garner enough support for passage. The 2018 federal farm bill legalized industrial hemp production so long as there wasn’t an already existing state law prohibiting it and so long as the hemp product contains a concentration of no more than 0.3 percent THC.
That legislation also removed hemp from the federal schedule of controlled substances.
Austin CBD & Kratom store owner Daniel Tolliver reacted favorably to HB 1325’s passage in the House.
“It’s a little maddening that it took that long because it’s been legal to sell here. If it was legal to sell here, it should have been legal to grow. It seems kind of odd that we have to support states like Oregon, North Carolina, Tennessee, Kentucky, when we can’t support local farmers.”
The bill was received by the Senate where it awaits further action before the end of the session.
While HB 1325 would not legalize marijuana, many Senate Republicans, as well as Lt. Governor Dan Patrick, are wary of any legislative efforts that could potentially lead to marijuana decriminalization in the state.
Thus far, law enforcement groups have not voiced public opposition to the efforts being made to legalize industrial hemp production, which could help boost the bill’s prospects for passage in the Senate.
Should HB 1325 become law, Texas would become the 43rd state where industrial hemp production is legal.
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Kandace is known throughout Louisiana and areas of Washington D.C. for her work as a community organizer, advocate, and content developer for major brands. She is currently the Operations Manager at a vintage book journal business.