Gov. Greg Abbott signs law legalizing hemp production, CBD products in Texas

 

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Gov. Greg Abbott signed a new law Monday that clears up which CBD products are legal in Texas and will also allow local farmers to grow hemp as a crop.

The law, which received bipartisan support in the state Legislature, goes into effect immediately.

It will allow Texas to set up a federally approved program for farmers to grow hemp as an industrial crop, including procedures for sampling, inspection and testing. It also expands the kind of hemp products that can be legally purchased in Texas to include any hemp or hemp-derived products containing less than 0.3 percent of THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol, the psychoactive compound found in cannabis plants.

This includes cannabidiol, or CBD, products. While Texans have found oils, tinctures and other CBD goods on store shelves for years, those that contained even trace amounts of THC were technically illegal here. Now, as long as these products are derived from hemp, contain less than 0.3 percent THC and meet other labeling and quality standards, they are legal.

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Texas Senate Unanimously Approves Hemp Legalization Bill

Photo by Brendan Cleak 2017

Wednesday at the Texas Capitol was hump day — or hemp day, state Sen. Charles Perry joked before the upper chamber unanimously approved a bill that would legalize the farming of industrial hemp in Texas.

After a relatively short, amiable debate, the Texas Senate approved House Bill 1325 by state Rep. Tracy King. The bill would legalize hemp and hemp-derived extracts like CBD oil as long as they contain no more than 0.3% of tetrahydrocannabinol, the psychoactive element in marijuana known as THC. While hemp-based products that contain no THC — like clothing and twine, protein powder, moisturizers and essential oils — are legal in the state, the plant cannot be legally grown here and Texas businesses often have to source it from other states or even countries.

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Hemp legislation passes Texas House

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The Texas House of Representatives has passed legislation legalizing the cultivation of hemp, and it is expected to be passed by the Senate and signed by Governor Greg Abbott.

HB 1325, authored by Rep. Tracy King (D-Batesville), would allow Texas farmers to begin growing the crop. Hemp products have already been legal to possess, though the plant had to be imported from other countries. The unofficial vote count showed unanimous support on the House floor, with 144 voting in favor, and one legislator present and not voting.

This follows the federal government legalizing the growing of hemp late last year. The plant has often been confused with the marijuana plant, both of which are from the cannabis plant family and have some similar characteristics, though hemp does not have enough THC to produce a euphoric effect.

Concerns about the hiding of marijuana within hemp crops have subsided over the years, as hemp would effectively cross-pollinate and choke out any nearby marijuana crops. There are still issues with law enforcement not having the training or the tools to tell one plant from another, as there have been instances where entire shipments of hemp have been detained and those transporting it arrested.

Similar legislation had been proposed during the 2017 legislation session, though it never went anywhere as state officials feared running afoul of federal law.

Hemp was originally made illegal to grow in 1970 due to its similarities to marijuana.

Texas loosens state-level hemp ban, but uncertainty remains

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Hemp holdout Texas is taking a big step toward embracing the federally legal plant, with one agency announcing a rule change to remove the plant from the state’s definition of marijuana.

But entrepreneurs hoping that Texas will allow a hemp industry before federal agencies take action say that the April 5 change isn’t enough to allow the booming industry to take root in the nation’s second-largest state.

The change was quietly announced earlier this month, when the Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) added a notice to a state register that it would amend its definition of marijuana to carve out hemp with no more than 0.3% THC.

The agency said the change would align Texas’ definitions with the new federal standard adopted in the 2018 Farm Bill.

Hemp activists applauded the change, noting that the agency changing its definition was the same one that said last year it would yank CBD products off shelves.

That crackdown was put on hold pending a legal review.

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