What Is the Legality of Hemp and Marijuana in Texas?

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Navigating the ever-changing landscape of cannabis laws can be a complex task. Each state in the U.S. has the autonomy to set its own rules and regulations regarding the use, cultivation, and distribution of cannabis, leading to a patchwork of laws that vary significantly from one state to another. For many Southerners, the laws have remained unclear. So, let’s explore the current legality of hemp and marijuana in the Lone Star State: Texas.

Understanding Cannabis Terminology

Before we delve into the intricacies of Texas laws, it’s essential to understand some key cannabis-related terms.

What Is Cannabis?

Cannabis is a genus of flowering plants in the Cannabaceae family. The plant is known for its unique compounds, cannabinoids, which include THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) and CBD (cannabidiol), among others. It’s an overarching term that encompasses both hemp and marijuana.

Hemp vs. Marijuana: A Distinction

While both hemp and marijuana are cannabis plants, the distinction lies in their THC content. Hemp is legally defined as a cannabis plant containing 0.3% or less THC by dry weight, while marijuana is a cannabis plant containing more than 0.3% THC.

Key Cannabinoids: THC and CBD

THC is the psychoactive compound in cannabis responsible for the “high” sensation. CBD, on the other hand, is non-psychoactive and is known for its potential therapeutic benefits. Generally, marijuana is high THC and low CBD, while hemp is high CBD and low THC.

Federal Law and Cannabis

At the federal level, the Controlled Substances Act classifies marijuana as a Schedule I substance, making it illegal. However, the 2018 Farm Bill legalized hemp, distinguishing it from marijuana based on its THC content.

State Law: The Legal Status of Hemp in Texas

In Texas, hemp is recognized as an agricultural commodity and is treated differently from marijuana due to its lower THC content. The regulation and legalization of hemp in Texas have been influenced by changes in federal law, specifically the 2018 Farm Bill. This bill, which excluded hemp from the definition of marijuana in the Controlled Substances Act, effectively legalized it at the federal level.

Texas House Bill 1325

Following the federal lead, Texas enacted House Bill 1325 in June 2019. This groundbreaking piece of legislation recognized the distinction between hemp and marijuana based on the THC concentration. The bill essentially legalized the production, manufacture, retail sale, and inspection of industrial hemp crops and products in Texas.

House Bill 1325 defines hemp as any part of the cannabis sativa plant, including the seeds and all derivatives, extracts, cannabinoids, isomers, acids, salts, and salts of isomers, with a THC concentration of not more than 0.3% on a dry weight basis.

Legal Limits for THC Content in Hemp

In line with the federal definition, the bill set the legal limit for THC content in hemp at 0.3%. Products with a THC concentration exceeding this limit are classified as marijuana, which is subject to much stricter regulations and penalties.

It’s also worth noting that the law doesn’t merely apply to growers and manufacturers. Retailers can only sell hemp products, including CBD products, that adhere to the 0.3% THC limit and meet labeling and testing requirements.

Licensing for Hemp Cultivation and Production

For those interested in joining the hemp industry, whether as growers or manufacturers, Texas has established a comprehensive licensing system. The Texas Department of Agriculture (TDA) oversees this system, handling all hemp cultivation licenses.

The licensing process requires applicants to provide detailed information about their proposed operation, including the GPS coordinates of the hemp cultivation area. They must also consent to allow TDA staff access to the cultivation area for sampling and inspection.

In addition to cultivation licenses, the TDA also oversees handler registration. A handler is anyone who stores, handles, or processes raw hemp plants. Handler registration is designed to ensure that everyone in the supply chain, from farm to retail shelf, complies with state and federal laws.

It’s clear that Texas has embraced the potential of hemp as an agricultural and commercial product. However, the state also has strict regulations in place to ensure the industry operates within legal and safe boundaries. As such, individuals and businesses interested in cultivating, handling, or selling hemp products in Texas must understand and comply with these regulations.

State Law: The Legal Status of Marijuana in Texas

Unlike hemp, marijuana remains largely illegal in Texas, with some exceptions for medical use.

Possession Laws and Penalties

Possession of marijuana is generally illegal in Texas. Penalties vary depending on the amount possessed, with greater quantities attracting severe penalties.

Medical Marijuana Laws in Texas

The Compassionate Use Act allows the use of low-THC cannabis (0.5% THC or less) for medical purposes for patients with specific medical conditions and a prescription from a qualifying doctor.

Restrictions and Qualifying Conditions for Medical Marijuana Use

Qualifying conditions include epilepsy, multiple sclerosis, terminal cancer, autism, ALS, and more. The Texas Department of Public Safety oversees the Compassionate Use Registry, where eligible patients can register and join the program.

CBD Products in Texas

In Texas, the popularity of CBD products has skyrocketed following the legalization of hemp under House Bill 1325. Given that hemp-derived CBD products are legal if they contain less than 0.3% THC, the Texas market has seen an influx of various hemp-based products, including those rich in CBD and THCa.

Legality and Regulations

CBD products derived from hemp are legal to buy and sell in Texas, provided they contain less than 0.3% THC. This includes a wide range of products such as CBD oils, tinctures, topicals, edibles, and capsules. It’s important to note that these products must meet certain labeling and testing requirements to ensure they’re safe for consumer use and comply with the stipulated THC limit.

THCa, or tetrahydrocannabinol acid, is another cannabinoid found in hemp and cannabis plants. It’s the raw, non-psychoactive form of THC. While there’s still much to learn about THCa, early research suggests it may offer health benefits. THCa products derived from hemp are legal in Texas as long as they adhere to the same THC limit of 0.3%.

Other hemp-based products, such as hemp seed oils and hemp protein powder, are also legally available in Texas. These products are made from hemp seeds, which naturally contain negligible amounts of THC and CBD, but are rich in proteins, fatty acids, and other nutrients.

Where to Buy CBD Products in Texas

CBD products are widely available in Texas, both in physical retail stores and online platforms. Consumers should ensure they’re purchasing from reputable sources that provide third-party lab test results, ensuring the product’s legality and safety.

Recent Developments and Future Trends

Given the rapid evolution of cannabis laws across the U.S., it’s crucial to keep up-to-date with recent developments and future trends.

In Texas, while there’s no imminent plan to fully legalize recreational marijuana, there have been incremental changes. For example, in 2021, the Texas House passed a bill to reduce penalties for possession of marijuana concentrates and to expand the state’s medical cannabis program, but the Senate did not pass the bill.

Future trends suggest a potential expansion of the state’s medical marijuana program. With the public sentiment toward cannabis legalization becoming increasingly favorable, it’s possible that Texas may loosen its restrictions further in the coming years.

Final Thoughts

The legal landscape of hemp and cannabis in Texas is a dynamic one, reflecting the broader shifts in societal attitudes and understanding of these plants. Currently, while hemp and hemp-derived CBD products are legal in Texas, marijuana remains mostly illegal, with limited allowances for medical use.
As the cannabis industry continues to evolve, staying informed about the changes in cannabis laws is of utmost importance for consumers and businesses alike. Always ensure you’re abreast of both state and federal laws before purchasing or using any cannabis products. For now, there are plenty of fully legal cannabinoid products available to Texans.

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