State Watch

Texas House votes to legalize industrial hemp, CBD

The Texas state House gave broad preliminary approval Tuesday to a bill that would permit the Lone Star State's farmers to grow industrial hemp.

Hemp is similar to the marijuana plant, but it contains low levels of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the psychoactive element of the drug. Though hemp-based products that contain THC can be legally sold in Texas, growing hemp plants is illegal, and farmers often have to source it from other states. 

"There's no good reason for Texas farmers and ranchers not to have hemp as a crop option," Gene Hall, a spokesman for the Texas Farm Bureau, told The Texas Tribune. "I suspect a lot of farmers will choose this option once it's available. It's a drought-tolerant crop and can be grown anywhere where cropping is prevalent right now." 

The bill would also legalize hemp-derived extracts such as CBD oil as long as the products contain no more than 0.3% THC, remove hemp from Texas's controlled substance list and set up guidelines for farming the plant. Marijuana would still be illegal. 

Nobody opposed the bill when it came up for a voice vote in the Texas House. It will still need final approval from the chamber before moving on to the Senate, though that vote will likely be a formality.

The legislation, which was introduced by state Rep. Tracy King (D), has the support of several Republican leaders, including Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller.

"Allowing the Texas Department of Agriculture to create an industrial hemp program here in Texas will give Texas farmers an exciting new opportunity to thrive - and that's something everyone should get behind." Miller told the Tribune. "It is all about Texas farmers and ranchers and seeing them prosper."

The Texas bill comes after Congress passed the farm bill last year, which legalized hemp that contains no more than 0.3% THC at the federal level. More than 40 other states have passed similar statewide legislation.

Should the bill become law, the Texas Department of Agriculture would put regulations in place to oversee the state's hemp program, which would be submitted to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.