There is no secret about it: Sales of hemp-derived products have exploded all across the Lone Star State. Just about every CBD store, smoke shop, and even gas stations are displaying a multitude of various hemp cannabinoid products with contents ranging from broad spectrum CBD isolate to very potent THC and THC derivatives. In fact, a recent report by Whitney Economics suggests Texas businesses engaged in the hemp retail sector are bringing in 8 million dollars in revenue and hiring 50,000 people (1). That is a substantial number in a state where “marijuana” is still illegal.
However, not everyone is winning in this emerging market. Reports began dropping on June 7th of this year, a shop selling hemp-derived products in Garland was raided by local law enforcement and the Drug Enforcement Administration (2). Bee Hippy Hemp was accused of selling illegal THC products and law enforcement seized the store’s products and other assets. The owner has since maintained their business did nothing wrong, all the products were federally and state compliant, and they had proof of valid Certificates of Authenticity (COA).
Soon after, a shop in another North Texas town called Happy Hippies faced a near similar situation. On August 29th Little Elm PD obtained a warrant to find illegal THC products. They ended up seizing thousands of dollars of products for testing, but made no arrests. Then came Venom Vapors in Killeen on October 20th. This time, the owners were told by police their COAs, which allegedly were valid, had levels of THC too high to be legal. Killeen PD believed the THC levels established probable cause for a warrant to be issued to seize the product, no matter what hemp laws say. This happening in a city that has decriminalized misdemeanor amounts of marijuana through a local referendum.
While all of these cases are currently under active investigation or pending prosecution, one common theme among them is the lack of understanding of Texas hemp law by local, state, and federal police, and how they are translating it against long-standing marijuana enforcement. Hemp law was established in 2019 at the Texas Legislature, which virtually legalized everything about the cannabis plant except levels of delta-9 THC over .3% concentration by dry weight. And while Texas hemp is regulated by the Department of Agriculture and Department of State Health Services, little to nothing has been invested by the state to educate local law enforcement agencies about changes in hemp law. This all sits in juxtaposition to a medical cannabis program (Texas Compassionate Use Program) regulated by the Department of Public Safety.
Clear evidence of limited knowledge of Texas hemp law by local police was fully on display during the last Denton City Council meeting addressing marijuana decriminalization measure Proposition B on June 6th. Denton Police officers and representatives from the Denton Police Officer’s Association testified against the ordinance, and time and again, could not differentiate between hemp and marijuana from a policy, industry, or cultural standpoint. The measure was subsequently not adopted by Council.
Without a statewide paradigm shift in education and training, Texas remains a Wild West arena, where a variety of hemp-derived cannabis products are legal and widely available, but could land retailers or consumers in jail. And until one of these situations turns into a high profile court case that awards damages, the confusion as to how to enforce hemp and marijuana laws in Texas will continue to linger in limbo.
Daryoush Austin Zamhariri is the Executive Director of the Texas Cannabis Collective, a 501c4 nonprofit dedicated to news/media, advocacy, and premier events focused on Texas cannabis policy, industry, and culture.
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