The modern story of Texas hemp started in Ft. Worth at the RPT Convention in 2014. I have yet to see a more passionate message than the one delivered by the conservative activist speaking about the virtues of the valuable crop which once grew, “luxuriously” in the state. Three sessions and four years later HB 1325 (Texas hemp law) was passed unanimously. Despite no formal laws on the books until 2019, due in large part to the education provided by the Texas Hemp Industries Association (TXHIA) formed in 2014, Texas has grown into one of the largest retail consumer markets for hemp products in the country. Texas is late to the game, but as with all thing agriculture and business, Texas is set to be a major player in the hemp industry.
In 2015, compounding pharmacies and health food stores like Peoples Pharmacy in Austin, started selling hemp salves, tinctures, and edibles to customers seeking the health benefits offered by these products. Sales around the state continued to grow despite hiccups caused by the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) misunderstanding new rules relating to the Texas Compassionate Use Program (the limited Texas medical marijuana program). In 2016, DPS raided Peoples Pharmacy, confiscated materials, and threatened to arrest the pharmacist and the business owner Bill Swail. Fortunately, following discussions with the TXHIA, DPS chose not to prosecute and returned all the products citing the legal ambiguity that existed with the legal definition for hemp found in the 2014 Farm Bill. This case ended up becoming the precedent sited in more than a dozen cases that the TXHIA successfully resolved over the next three years.
Similarly, in 2018 the Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) proposed banning CBD from as a food additive. Using testimony from the HIA v. DEA lawsuit in the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, the TXHIA was able to convince DSHS to kick the can on their proposed rule and set the stage for HB 1325.
The advantage Texas maintains with the slow political process is the ability to piece together the best language based on other states and enforcement (or lack of enforcement) taken by state agencies. Fundamentally, the position of the TXHIA has been that hemp should be treated like any other food or agricultural commodity. HB 1325 solidified this position by stating that, “products containing one of more hemp-derived cannabinoids, such as cannabidiol, intended for ingestion are considered foods, not controlled substances or adulterated products.” This language positions Texas as one of the best states to manufacture consumable products and helps push national legislation (HB 5587 – Rep. Collin Peterson) that would require the FDA to regulate hemp derived cannabinoids as a dietary supplement for human or animal consumption.
The one misstep Texas made in HB 1325 is adding, “the processing of manufacturing consumable hemp product for smoking is prohibited.” This language is out of step with the 2018 Farm Bill, conflicts with interstate commerce, and is uncharacteristic of Texas that is known as a pro-business state. The DSHS has taken this language a step further by proposing rules that would prohibit the, “retail sale of consumable hemp products for smoking.” Banning, “processing and manufacturing” is different than prohibiting “retail sale,” and businesses are lining up to challenge the unfunded mandate that paints outside the lines.
Prior to 2019, and more pronounced today, you will find some of the largest and most successful hemp businesses are founded by Texans. You can find hemp products in grocery stores, department stores, farmers markets, and gas stations though out the state. ‘Go Texan’ stickers coming soon.