Following the passage of House Bill 1325, which legalizes the farming of industrial hemp in Texas, the Kaufman County District Attorney’s Office has released a statement clarifying that it will still be prosecuting cases regarding the possession of marijuana.
Although marijuana possession remains illegal in Texas after the passage of Representative Tracy King’s bill, hemp production and hemp-derived extracts, which includes CBD oil, are now legal.
In order to adhere to the state’s legal boundaries, legal hemp must include less than 0.3 percent of tetrahydrocannabinol, commonly abbreviated as THC, which is the psychoactive element present in marijuana. Farmers interested in growing industrial hemp will be required to obtain a license and will be subject to testing THC testing.
Previously, hemp-based products containing no THC have been legal to obtain and sell in Texas. But since Texas citizens couldn’t grow hemp legally, businesses would have to ship them in from out of state. State Senator Charles Perry, the state sponsor of the bill, listed a number of different products that can utilize hemp during a debate over the bill on the floor of the Texas Senate prior to the bill’s passage.
“Hemp has thousands of uses and can be found in multiple commodities like seeds, oils, fibers and clothing,” Perry said. “Hemp products can already be found in retail and various other grocery chains.”
Similar hemp production bills have already been passed in more than 40 states across the country, however similar bills proposed in past legislative sessions in Texas have failed. The difference this time revolves around the Farm Bill the U.S. Congress passed in 2018 which legalizes hemp with less than 0.3 percent THC at the federal level. This has resulted in the passage of hemp production bills similar to HB 1325 in the few remaining states that haven’t already passed them in order to create a buffer between the state and federal regulations.
“Previously dormant pilot programs are all now activating after the passage of the Farm Bill,” cannabis law attorney Lisa Pittman said. “I personally believe Texas will become a leader in this arena since it’s already a big agriculture-producing state to begin with. Farmers have been looking to this bill as a lifeline to save their family farms.”
Though the new law does affect the growing, production and transportation and possession of hemp with less than 0.3 percent THC, marijuana possession remains a criminal offense across the state. Perry noted that the bill “specifically prohibits manufacturing for the purpose of smoking” and police officers who stop people transporting hemp can seize anything they believe could be marijuana.
Notably, a bill that would have decriminalized the possession of small amounts of marijuana was proposed during the 2019 legislative session, but failed to pass.
In response to the passage of the bill and how it might affect, and potentially confuse, Kaufman County residents, the county’s District Attorney’s Office released the following statement:
“House Bill 1325 was signed into law by the Governor last month on June 10, 2019 and became effective immediately. The new legislation will enact regulations to govern hemp production as a crop through the State of Texas Hemp Production Plan.
“In creating this new legislation one of the results has been confusion between the lawful production of hemp and the Texas statutory criminal illegality of marijuana possession. Marijuana is the concentration of cannabis sativa L plant that is greater than 0.3 percent; whereas, if the THC concentration of a cannabis sativa L plant is less than 0.3 percent, the substance is Hemp. Under the new law, to determine if a substance is marijuana or hemp, laboratory testing is required to show the THC concentration.
“At this time, the Kaufman County District Attorney’s Office (KCDA) does not have any cases that have been filed after June 10, 2019 that is only cases involving the possession of marijuana. As we receive those cases, we will make individual decisions about the prosecution of the cases and will have to seek the assistance of private labs that are equipped in the testing of quantitative analysis of the amount of THC.
“KCDAs will continue to accept marijuana cases, but to prosecute these cases there will have to be a lab result proving that the evidence seized has a THC concentration of over 0.3%.”