Texas farmers support bill to make hemp a potential cash crop


Hemp, the non-psychoactive cousin of marijuana, has some fans among Texas farmers.

A number of them turned out Wednesday for a House committee hearing at the Capitol to support a bill defining so-called “industrial hemp” as legally distinct from marijuana. The bill, House Bill 3587, would allow hemp to be grown and marketed in Texas under a federal pilot program in which 31 other states are participating.

“There are thousands of uses for this crop,” testified Jeff Williams, a representative of Clayton Williams Farms & Ranches in far West Texas and the son of the one-time GOP gubernatorial candidate. “And Texas has really the best climate almost anywhere in the United States and other countries” to cultivate it.

Farmers and some university researchers who spoke Wednesday during the hearing before the House Committee on Agriculture & Livestock cited an abundance of uses for hemp. The plant — which has an extremely low level of tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, the component of marijuana that produces a high — is a source of fiber for clothing and industrial parts, they said, and its seeds and oils have been used in health and food supplements.

Under existing laws, hemp-derived products can be imported into Texas and sold in the state, but the plant can’t be grown here. State Rep. Bill Zedler, R-Arlington, who co-authored HB 3587, said he did so partly because of the inconsistency.

“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.”

Still, some members of the committee noted the close relationship between hemp and marijuana and questioned how advocates for hemp can overcome negative impressions about it.

“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.

Laurance Armour, a south Texas rice farmer, said education is the key. He said allowing farmers to start cultivating hemp will help because the public will become more familiar with the crop and its benefits.

If legal, hemp would be an ideal crop in South Texas because of its low water requirements and tolerance for sandy soils, Armour said.

“Rice is going to go away” because of high water costs and other factors, he said. “Hemp could be the answer. Unfortunately, when everybody hears ‘hemp,’ they think it’s marijuana. It’s not the same crop.”

No action was taken on the bill after the hearing, and it remains pending in the committee.

In addition to Zedler’s industrial hemp bill, more than a dozen bills have been filed in the current session of the state Legislature dealing with various aspects of conventional marijuana, meaning marijuana with psychoactive levels of THC.

House Bill 81, which would decriminalize possession of small amounts of marijuana, has gained some traction, winning approval from the House Criminal Jurisprudence Committee this month, although it has yet to be taken up by the full House for a vote.

Under the bill — co-authored by state Rep. Joe Moody, D-El Paso — law enforcement officers would write tickets in such cases instead of making arrests, and culprits would pay fines of up to $250, do community service or attend substance-abuse classes, but they wouldn’t suffer the permanent stigma of having a criminal record and they wouldn’t crowd local courts and jails. The bill defines a small amount of marijuana as an ounce or less.

Some other bills would legalize medical marijuana for any doctor-corroborated debilitating health condition, such as cancer, chronic pain, autism or post-traumatic stress disorder, although the bills have yet to be scheduled for committee hearings.



Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Business

How easy is it to #DeleteFacebook? Advice from some who’ve disconnected
How easy is it to #DeleteFacebook? Advice from some who’ve disconnected

SEATTLE — Facebook’s image has taken a beating the past couple of years. First it was the Russians buying ads to try and influence U.S. elections, followed by the news that the political consulting firm Cambridge Analytica harvested the data of 50 million Facebook users without their permission and used it to help Donald Trump become president...
Customers want more tech, fewer people

Get out of our way. That’s the message customers have for merchants looking to improve their in-store experience, according to a new study of more than 2,900 adults and children in the U.S. and Canada. The survey, conducted winter by HRC Retail Advisory, found that a majority of buyers prefer to be left alone to browse while shopping and would...
How listening to random sound can unlock a trapped mind
How listening to random sound can unlock a trapped mind

LOS ANGELES – David Tobin took to the stage at a recent technology conference in downtown Los Angeles, asked the 500 attendees to close their eyes, and turned up the sound so they could sample his wares: a textured, layered soundscape that he calls an “audiojack.” A thousand eyes clamped shut as they collectively heard a ball thudding...
Best AV receivers for 2018
Best AV receivers for 2018

So you’ve got the high-def, wide-screen, 4K video television, multiple surround speakers and a subwoofer the size of a dorm fridge. You’re almost there — but if you want the full home theater experience, you need an AV receiver to ride herd on all of it. These are the four best models CNET has reviewed over the last year. —&mdash...
‘Yakuza 6’ a modern chapter in need of one vital update
‘Yakuza 6’ a modern chapter in need of one vital update

Jumping into the “Yakuza” series right now is a tricky proposition. Sega’s long-running underworld crime saga has been out for more than a decade and has several chapters that follow the exploits of legendary gangster Kazuma Kiryu. The developers have been trying to get both new and longtime fans into the series with a two-pronged...
More Stories