Texas and Hemp in 2019
This year in Texas has proven to be a historic time in the progression of cannabis laws and liberties. It began in December of 2018 when President Trump signed the U.S. Farm Bill into law which removed hemp from the list of Schedule I substances and allowed for its cultivation according to state legislature. In President Obama signed the 2014 Farm Bill, allowing states to allow research programs involving hemp and its properties. However Texas was one of the states which still had hemp defined as a schedule I substance this past December placing Texas in an awkward legal position. Businesses and entrepreneurs across the country, including in Texas, took the opportunity offered by the change in legal status and began selling hemp and CBD products earlier this year. Those entrepreneurs that took part in the state of Texas chose to take a risk by selling them on their shelves. After some necessary enforcement and the education of the public, some businesses were allowed to continue selling these products, but they often warned "buyer beware!" because investigation often led to the discovery of counterfeit or adulterated products.
Texas has joined the majority of other states looking to renew the hemp industry and now allows the legal sale and distribution of hemp products. It will soon develop the laws and regulations to allow hemp cultivation and product testing in 2020. What’s interesting is that hemp didn’t always have the reputation it had carried for so many years and in fact it had been required for colonial farmers to cultivate up to the 1900’s when this reputation began to develop.
A Brief History of Hemp in The U.S. and Texas
Hemp entered the American continents when Columbus brought it from Spain. It was cultivated for its applications in the making of food, clothing, and rope. In colonial times, hemp began to be used in pharmacological products and was found in majority of medicines at the time. Colonial hemp began to suffer the damages of the propaganda revolving around “marijuana” in the late 1800’s although it was entirely different from it in many ways. The facts revolving around what circumstances led to marijuana prohibition are controversial, however it was enough to cause the U.S. to remove hemp from farmers and citizens.
In 1914 El Paso the City Council became the first legal body to pass an ordinance banning possession of marijuana after reports that some white men were allegedly attacked by a Mexican man who had “gone crazy” on “killer weed.” Following the incident it became apparent that the law had the effect of controlling the local Mexican population more than controlling marijuana. Although not long ago, there remains a great deal of mystery around what had actually led to the establishment of this law, specifically if a cannabis substance had been the cause of these reports. There are examples of numerous desert plants that could have easily been confused with or added to cannabis that may have led to misidentifying it as the cause of the alleged behavior, but one thing has remained constant throughout experimentation and scholarly studies; cannabis does not cause one to lose one’s mind. Cannabis use began to spread across the US in the years following El Paso’s implementation of this law, and it began to rise in its application in similar ways throughout the country.
In the time since it was criminalized, other more deleterious substances have arisen in awareness and causing concern within our community. The US has since recognized the severity of the opioid epidemic which has debilitated our communities and led to a dependency on it. There is now growing support for cannabis as a medicine as it has demonstrated its usefulness for multiple medicinal applications including curbing the impacts of the opioid and alcohol abuse.
A Closer Look at the Future of Cannabis in Texas
Texas remains ambivalent about the progression of cannabis legalization within the state for reasons that are not completely understood. This year in Texas’ 86th Legislature numerous cannabis bills were put up for consideration and debate within the house and senate, and some of them passed with a great amount of support. State legislators and advocates put forth bills aimed at decreasing punishments for possession of pot, expanding the medical cannabis program, increasing its availability to patients, and implementation of a state industrial hemp industry. Of the more than 60 bills submitted for consideration, only two were recently signed by the governor; HB 1325 and HB 3703.
HB 1325, which was supported unanimously by both the house and senate before being sent to the governor, allows for the regulation and sale of hemp products. It has set the foundation for reliable testing, product consistency, and increased safety around hemp products like CBD oils. It has also opened the doors to numerous technologies and opportunities in the textile industry. Hemp’s natural fibers, seeds, and oils offer opportunities to drastically change the way we have been making and using our tools. For example, before hemp was made a schedule I substance, Ford made a vehicle whose body and some parts were made from hemp; it even ran on hemp biofuel!
HB 3703 allows for the expansion of the Compassionate Use Act which was established 2015. It allowed for cannabis to be used medicinally in the population of patients who were diagnoses with intractable epilepsy. This basically means that a patient who has tried and failed to find a pharmaceutical medicine to control their seizures can be legally prescribed cannabis by a neurologist to attempt to control them. The bill now allows the inclusion of patients with multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, ALS, terminal cancer, autism, and many kinds of seizure disorders. It remains flawed in the requirement for a prescription by a physician because many physicians fear the implications of prescribing a substance that remains classified as a schedule I substance, but it is a step in the right direction.
Cannabis' psychoactive effect is caused by THC and it can produce it up to concentrations of up to 40% in the flowers of the plant. Hemp today differs from recreational and medical cannabis in that it does not produce more than 0.3% THC, so it doesn't cause a psychoactive effect but otherwise it can be very genetically similar to it. Hemp today also differs from hemp during the colonial times because it contains higher amounts of CBD, which became possible only recently by breeding cannabis to make varieties that eliminated THC and increased CBD in the flowers. This has allowed hemp to be used therapeutically by the public safely without the psychoactive effects of THC. Many of those who have used CBD have given their testimonials of its effectiveness in relieving their ailments and it has led to a surmounting amount of evidence of the benefits of hemp as a medicine, and there remain discoveries to be uncovered in the other molecules produced by it.
As Texas moves forward into its bright green future, it remains to be seen how Texas will leave its mark on the industry, but it has had the strong stance of disallowing the smoking and recreational use of cannabis. We can expect Texas to remain firm on this point for some time, however in the last decade there has been a boom in the cannabis industries across the country that have led to many innovative discoveries, applications, and technologies that have little to do with the medical or recreation use of cannabis. These include hempcrete, bioplastics, biofuel, and other daily-use products that can help minimize our use of harmful products like plastics and fossil fuels. It will not be long before Texas has its own boom in the hemp and cannabis markets, but it will still take some time before we see applications like those in other states where medicinal products are more accessible to patients.
TXNorml.org, “42 Milestone in the History of Marijuana”
CBS Austin, “Governor Abbott Signs Bill Allowing Farmers in Texas to Grow Hemp” June 11th, 2019
KXAN.com, “Governor Abbot Signs Bill Expanding Texas’ Medical Cannabis Program” June 14th, 2019