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Hemp in Texas gets its hearing

A crop of hemp ready to be harvested.

A bill to legalize hemp in Texas had its hearing today, with much support from Texas farmers.

HB 3587, filed by Rep. Bill Zedler (R-Arlington), seeks to end the inconsistency with industrial hemp, a product which can be sold and consumed in Texas, but not grown. If legalized, farmers could obtain a permit to grow the plant.

Hemp has proven to be versatile plant which consumes half the water of cotton while producing 250 percent more fiber, grows in most soil, and is used in over 25,000 products

“It ought to be something that we ought to be able to grow in Texas,” Zedler said. “This will provide an economic boon to the state.”

“There are thousands of uses for this crop,” testified Jeff Williams, who was representing Clayton Williams Farms & Ranches in west Texas. He added, “and Texas has really the best climate almost anywhere in the United States and other countries” to cultivate it.”

Hemp is in the same plant family as marijuana, however it contains very little THC, the ingredient which produces a high. Getting people to understand that hemp cannot get a person high has been a challenge. While several testified in support, sources say that officials with the Texas Sheriff’s Association signed up in opposition to the bill, likely due to its similarities to marijuana. A full list of those signed up either for or against the bill will be available at a later date.

In 2015 at a hearing for a similar bill in the Agriculture and Livestock Committee, former Denton County Sheriff William Travis testified against hemp legalization, confusing it with marijuana, and had to be reminded by a member of the committee that they are two different plants.

“How do we get away from the perception that this is going to be abused in the way that marijuana is abused?” asked state Rep. Lynn Stuckey, (R-Denton).

There are also concerns that marijuana growers will be able to conceal their plants inside a crop of hemp, however such a scenario would destroy the potency of a marijuana crop through cross-pollination.

In 2016, delegates to the Republican Party State Convention voted to include support of legalizing hemp in the party’s platform. Texas Farm Bureau has also previously come out in support of hemp legislation, and sent a representative to testify in support during the 2015 legislative session.

No action was taken on the bill, though sources say that the bill is likely to pass with nearly the full support of committee members.

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Stephen Carter

Stephen Carter is a 30 year old journalist and information technology specialist living in Waco, Texas and serves as Deputy Director for NORML of Waco. He has been working with the cannabis movement since 2009. He founded Texas Cannabis Report in 2013 to bring Texans accurate cannabis related news.

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