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Texas sheriff fumbles as hemp is poised to pass committee

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Hemp recently had its first committee hearing in the Texas legislature, and it involved about a dozen supporters testifying in favor of the two bills, along with one very confused sheriff.

Two bills submitted by Rep. Joe Farias of San Antonio would bring hemp to the Texas agriculture scene. House Bill 557 would legalize hemp for research purposes through institutions of higher education, while House Bill 1322 legalizes hemp for Texas farmers to grow alongside other crops.

Many groups were represented at the hearing, including farmers, health food stores, an insurance company, and the Texas Hemp Industries Association. Both bills were heard at the same time.

Legislators were treated to an all-around education about hemp, both prior to and during the hearing as supporters brought hemp products, talked about hemp’s many uses, and how it could be a major crop for farmers.

Currently hemp can be imported, consumed, and used to make a wide range of products, however farmers here cannot grow it. Hemp products were valued at $620 million nationally last year.

A 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, hemp is legal to cultivate in 21 states. However, only three states currently grow hemp, while the other 18 have research programs.

At one point during the hearing, hemp was touted as a natural alternative which could be used for environmentally friendly fracking.

An employee of Texas A&M also testified that he would like the university to be able to research the plant, though he had concerns that legalizing it only for research purposes would still limit how effective the research would be.

Cotton farmers were represented as well as a south Texas farmer emphasized the need for hemp and to legalize it in such a way that it would not increase the overhead costs for farmers and would not cost the state anything to implement as well.

“Members of the legislative committee were very receptive” said Coleman Hemphill, the president of Texas Hemp Industries Association. Hemphill testified as well about how well other states which were growing hemp are doing, along with a little history about the plant.

“The first two drafts of The Declaration of Independence were written on hemp paper, the first flag was made of hemp, our founders grew hemp, and during the early 1900s farmers were encouraged by the federal government to grow hemp in order to help support the war effort, even going so far as to produce a documentary entitled ‘Hemp for Victory.'”

A representative of the Texas Farm Bureau also made an appearance, testifying in support of hemp legalization.

Rep. Drew Springer expressed concern about requiring a license to grow hemp, considering that other crops do not need a license. He considered the requirement a burden, though Rep. Farias said that the licensing requirement was included in order to help get the bill passed.

There are concerns that some may try to hide marijuana in the middle of hemp fields, however that concern has been unfounded as testimony showed that hemp would end up pollinating any nearby marijuana crops, rendering them useless. Crops would also be tested to ensure THC content is at a satisfactory level.

Towards the end of the hearing, Sheriff Will Travis of Denton County stepped forward to testify, however he was confused about what bills he was testifying on, believing that he would be testifying in favor of hemp CBD research and against medical marijuana. At one point he stated that legalizing hemp would lead to legalizing medical and recreational marijuana, saying that the people in attendance were only there to legalize marijuana.

When one of the committee members asked him to elaborate on that he stated “oh we’ll see them here again later on” though the committee member quickly added that they were discussing only hemp, and that marijuana had no bearing on the topic. Sheriff Travis at one point confused, insisted that hemp was the same as marijuana, and even stated that “hemp is not good for human consumption.”

A committee member pressed him on the matter, asking him if all of the products currently in stores with hemp in them are not fit for human consumption, to which the sheriff replied “yes.”

Hemp has been consumed for thousands of years, and has been found to be a good source of protein and fiber. The Omega-3 fatty acids in hemp reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease, lower blood pressure, and may even ward off Alzheimer’s disease. Hemp seeds are one of the few Omega-3 sources found in plants. The Omega-6 fatty acids in hemp stimulate skin and hair growth, maintain bone health, regulate metabolism, and help the brain function.

Several times Travis had to be corrected as he began talking about what he believed the hemp bills entailed, only to find out that the bills did not contain what he was talking about.

Proponents of the bills believe that they will pass committee easily, and are hoping that they will be scheduled for a full vote in the House before heading to the Senate.

By: Stephen Carter

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Stephen Carter

Stephen Carter is a 30 year old journalist and information technology specialist living in Waco, Texas. 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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