AUSTIN (Nexstar) — On Tuesday, the House approved a bill that will allow farmers to grow hemp and also legalizes hemp products in Texas.
House Bill 1325, authored by Rep. Tracy King, D- Batesville, allows farmers to grow hemp as industrial crops under a regulated state program. Additionally, it will legalize hemp-derived products like CBD oil. The debate over whether hemp and marijuana are the same thing have kept such bills from passing previously. Unlike marijuana, hemp and its by-products contain less than .3 percent of THC, which produces the “high” in marijuana.
The initial nod earned immediate reaction from the agriculture industry, who labels it a win.
“We are pleased that the House concurs with our position,” Texas Farm Bureau communications director Gene Hall said in a statement. “Hemp is legally grown in more than 40 states and the products are already sold here. Hemp will be another crop option, enabling farmers to respond to market forces.”
Hemp advocates call it not just a win for farmers, but a win for consumers as well.
“This is huge,” Texas Hemp Industries Association executive director Coleman Hemphill said after the vote.
“This is going to allow Texas farmers to begin growing this crop,” he said. “There are hundreds and thousands of customers that use these products – find a lot of relief from their products – there’s a great interest around it.”
“The association is very focused on providing good agricultural practices and directing good testing, traceability of products, so that consumers know where these products are coming from, that law enforcement understands the difference between these products and other legal products and we can really begin to commercialize these things,” Hemphill added.
The bill passed by a voice vote and will need to be voted through once more before it heads to the Senate.
“Both Democrats and Republicans came together and said ‘This is good for all Texans,'” State Rep. Drew Springer, R-Muenster, who serves as chair of the House Agriculture and Livestock committee said. Springer co-authored House Bill 1325.
This week’s other marijuana bill
On Thursday, the Texas House of Representatives will debate a different cannabis-related bill — one that would decriminalize possession of an ounce or less of marijuana.
House Bill 63, authored by Rep. Joe Moody, D-El Paso, would downgrade the current criminal penalty of jail time with a fine of no more than $250. Current laws define possession of small amounts of marijuana as a Class B misdemeanor, and those who are convicted face up to 180 days in jail and criminal records for the rest of their lives.
Under the new law, only people who receive more than three fines will face misdemeanor criminal charges.
According to Moody, in previous statement to lawmakers:
“It [criminalization of small marijuana amounts] actually makes us less safe because that arrest takes an officer off the street for up to half a shift with processing and paperwork, then further overcrowds our jails and clogs our courts. And it does absolutely nothing to deter marijuana use since usage has remained steady for years.”
Original article by KXAN